Sunday, August 14, 2016

Now on HBO: Brookyln (2015)

Brooklyn (2015) - Directed by John Crowley; Written by Nick Hornby; Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Jessica Pare.

By Kenny Howell

What is home?

Is it where you were born? Is it where your family is? Or can it be found elsewhere? In a significant other?

This is at the heart of Brooklyn, the magnificent new romantic drama from director John Crowley, adapted by Nick Hornby (Wild) from the Colm Toibin novel.

Set in the 1950s, Saoirse Ronan (The Grand Budapest Hotel) plays Eilis, a young Irish woman who, because of a program with her church, will go to America to start a new life. The church sets her up in a boarding house, and even gets her a job. Eilis shows promise, so the church feels that she needs an opportunity to make the most of herself in the states.

Eilis is excited at first, despite the fact that she will miss her family terribly. Her leaving means that her sister will now be responsible for her mother for the rest of her life. That limits her sister's possibilities, but her sister wants more than anything for Eilis to go.

When she gets to America, the transition is tough. After a horrific boat ride, she feels terribly lost in her new home in Brooklyn. She has trouble making friends despite living with other young women in her boarding house. But that changes when she meets Tony, an Italian-American plumber. He is at a dance for Irish immigrants because he loves Irish women. He immediately falls for her, and she does for him. The whirlwind romance carries on until she needs go back to Ireland for her family. There, she is confronted with what she needs to do with her future. Should she just settle back into her Irish home, or return to the new life she has built with Tony in America.

Rarely do I want movies to be longer, but Brooklyn is definitely one that I wish the run time would have pushed past two hours. I didn't fully fall into it until Eilis and Tony meet, but once I did, it was hard not to be completely entranced by the budding romance, as well as the complications it presents for Eilis. Everything that she wanted is now there for her, she has built a life for herself, and now her past, her home, is calling her back. I felt like I was watching not necessarily my grandparents, but ones of their generation, and I couldn't help but think about the time that would have past, and what their lives would look like in current day. Credit to Hornby for bringing the characters to life so vividly that my investment in them goes way past the time that credits roll.

Also credit to Ronan who makes Eilis one of the most admirable, though not without her faults, young woman in films today. She comes to make a life for herself, working hard to achieve things on her own. The movie does revolve around her love interests, but it is always Eilis who is in control and makes the decisions for herself. Ronan perfectly portrays that maturation, and continues to grow into one of our finest young actresses.

Brooklyn, which I chose as the best picture of 2015, is currently playing on HBO.

Rating: ****

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