This film shows a Brooklyn that’s unrecognizable to us except in a vague architectural structure, but whose every moment feels completely relatable and still culturally relevant. My mother came to the US as an immigrant when she was young. Listening to her stories and her experiences about the culture shock she went through resonate very strongly through the story of Brooklyn. Even though the story aptly embodies a shared experience between some immigrants, it also goes beyond that niche. It finds a home in the consciousness of those who have left all the comforts and familiarity of a place they’ve known all their lives to venture into unknown territory. The hopes of a new and better life are only a vague promise against a dark sea of doubts. The story will speak to any person who has ever been torn between a sense of familial duty and a longing to start your own life.
Brooklyn is full of life, color and contrast. Every scene has a crisp vibrancy used to enhance the film’s natural effervescence. Every set piece, no matter how gritty or aged, is engulfed in the film’s overall beauteous hue. Every element of of the time period was meticulously recreated from the hairstyles and costume design all the way to the use of silver (rather than the now more common steel) utensils.
The film has few truly dark moments because it excels in the subtlety of emotionally infusing each scene with genuine emotion. Instead of relying on the typical one or two explosive emotional scenes, Brooklyn uses several small bursts of sentiment keeping the film consistently paced even when the tone changes. Director John Crowley decides to focus on the beauty in every moment rather than showing some of the darker aspects of Brooklyn during that time. This is by no means a fault in the film because it is trying to go for a sympathetic and engaging feel rather than a sense of abysmal depression.
Everyone knows that New York is as much about its sights as it is people, and Brooklyn is no exception. The phenomenal female ensemble are the true heroes of this film. Above all, this film is about a women’s place in a male dominated society. It looks at how most of the women of that period aspired only to marriage over building a career. This is where Saoirse Ronan’s character, Eilis, soars. She is the type of rags-to-riches story that the American dream is based on. She had two suitors that respect and encourage her sense of independence, which was rare at the time. Rather than working minimum wage jobs until she finds a husband to support her while she stays home and has children, Eilis uses her natural talents to go for a career that is dominated by men.
Ronan’s outstanding performance is one of the many anchors of the film, and she continues to demonstrate a superb degree of talent that easily makes her one of the best new actresses of the past decade. Her male courtiers, Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson, are both great counterbalances to Ronan’s character. One of them represents the change and adventure she went to America for, while the other embodies the attractive pull of the familiar and safe.
The film ends the only way it ever could. It ends on an inspiring note, showing the cyclical nature of life, but also the unbridled optimism of the American dream actually being achieved.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10 stars)