Brooklyn is a film that delivers everything one expects it to. The film charms in a way that will make it accessible to many, but does not dive too deep into the emotional well to leave a lingering impression.
John Crowley’s film comfortably establishes its romantic beats while never losing sight of the female independence that serves as the support beam in the narrative’s foundation. Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn follows an Irish immigrant, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), as she ventures to America in hopes of a better life. Leaving her ailing mother (Jane Brennan) and beloved sister (Fiona Glascott) back in Ireland, she quickly discovers that America is not quite the place she envisioned it would be. Living in an Irish rooming house, and securing a job at a nearby department store, Lacey cannot help but feel homesick for the land she has sailed away from.
Things take an unexpected turn for the better when, while at a weekly Irish dance, Lacey meets Antonio “Tony” Fiorello (Emory Cohen), an Italian repairman from a middle-class family. As the pair spends more and more time with each other, Lacey begins to see a possible future with the budding entrepreneur who dreams of opening up a business with his brothers. However, when some startling news from Ireland forces Lacey to head back home briefly, cracks begin to appear in her seemingly secure bond with Fiorello. Back in the familiar surroundings of her overbearing mother’s home, Lacey finds the lure of her old community hard to ignore.
Despite proclaiming she has every intention of returning to America, her stance softens after getting to know the charming Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), a young man from a well-to-do family. Torn between her life in the States and the potential of a new life in her homeland, Lacey finds herself in a tough predicament with no easy answer.
One of the surprising things about Crowley’s film is that he ensures both potential suitors are given equal weight. Not only does this help to complicate Lacey’s decision further, but it also helps to ensure neither man can be used as an excuse to tip her scale either way. By all accounts both men are genuinely good guys, which is rather refreshing. This allows the film to firmly establish that every decision Lacey makes is of her own accord.
Saoirse Ronan does a wonderful job of keeping Lacey’s independence at the forefront. Ronan is so engaging that she ensures the film remains interesting even as it journeys across well-travelled tropes. Though she is delightful in the lead, and required to do most of the heavy lifting, the real scene-stealer of the film is cinematographer Yves Bélanger’s lens. Bélanger captures the beauty of each scene in such a way that the vibrant colours pour lovingly off the screen. Every frame is a gorgeous sight to behold.
While Brooklyn does not carry the depth some might hope for, it is a film that will satisfy audiences in the mood for a charming romance.