Soairse Ronan shines in period drama "Brooklyn"
The word ‘sappy’ immediately springs to mind on hearing the synopsis of Brooklyn. Torn between two countries and two men, our heroine Eilis (played by a paradoxically pragmatic and enthralling Soairse Ronan) must make the decision of a lifetime. I apologise if your eyes are now spasming mid-cataclysmic eye roll at the sound of that premise, but it’s better than it sounds. I generally balk at the love dichotomy so often presented in movies – I’m certainly not one to gasp “Oh my stars I wonder who the young lass will choose?! How absolutely DELIGHTFUL to be young!” – but I feel that Brooklyn hits a deeper note than the surface may initially suggest.
The choice posed in Brooklyn is less about romantic love and more about encapsulating the timeless confusion of young adulthood. It’s not a coming of age tale; but instead a story about spreading your wings and taking flight. It is less about choosing between two strapping young lads, and more about a woman choosing the kind of life she wants to lead: one of familiar safety, or one less certain but much bolder.
So does this movie simply boil down to a sweeping presentation of dichotomies? Well no, the sailing between poles isn’t so smooth; there are some rough seas. Heartstrings weren’t just tugged but plucked vigorously as if by a flamenco guitarist, making the soft offerings of a comedic moment very welcome. The most laughter-inducing character was tied between a gruffly proper owner of a young woman’s boarding home and an 8-year-old Italian-American with a crooked mouth and a self-assuredness beyond his years.
Although not as comedic, Ronan truly shines as the protagonist in this film. I would not be surprised if the Oscar whispers ring true. She still has the captivating on-screen presence that she froze audiences with in Hanna, and the charming purity of Agatha of Wes Anderson’s infinitely enjoyable The Grand Budapest Hotel. There is something in the efficient rendering of her characters, everything is deliberate, yet the performances always feel naturalistic rather than measured. /witchcraft/
A few points niggled at me throughout Brooklyn; I found the score too overdone. I get it: woeful strings and melancholic soft piano tinkles means I’m meant to feel sad. I also found the male love interests of the film pretty underwhelming, even if that was the purpose of Domhnall Gleeson’s character, his talents have been much better utilized elsewhere (see the quaint About Time). But maybe this was intentional decision as a trade-off for originally presenting the men as the most important facet of Eilis’ life.
All in all this film is a really well executed story about an outsider navigating her way through young adulthood in a strange new land. The contrast of the salad bowl vs melting pot conceptualisation of immigration was really nicely depicted and probably rung true to the experiences of migrants at this time. Even for the stubborn anti-romantic, the cheesy nature of Brooklyn can be forgiven based on the quality of writing, solid performances and high production value that is apparent throughout the film. Maybe the story of Brooklyn won’t stay with me, but as a young woman, its sentiments of burgeoning independence will echo.