Monday, February 15, 2016

Brooklyn (2015)

I don't know director John Crowley, but I know a few things by screenwriter Nick Hornby, and I noticed the title of this one, so I had some idea what I was in for with this very sweet story about a young Irish woman emigrating to the US in the early 1950s. It's little more or less than a romantic comedy, but for once the emphasis is on romance, not comedy. Brooklyn takes its time working up to its highs, and for the most part plays fair with its swooning romantic impulses. The main character, Eilis, is barely in her 20s. She's played by a wonderfully composed Saoirse Ronan, late of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Hanna. Eilis longs to escape the oppressive town she was raised in, but finds herself overwhelmed by homesickness after she's crossed the ocean and been in New York a short while. She works as a clerk in a department store. She lives in a boarding house. She meets someone and falls in love. Then her sister unexpectedly dies and she must return to Ireland, which seems a different place to her, and worse than ever. I feel so trained by the movies that I kept waiting for something awful to happen, but this is not that kind of movie. It takes advantage of its setting in the past to make the implicit case for Better and More Innocent Times, which I have to count a little against it. It can be altogether too smug about its midcentury New York nostalgia, but more often it's a barbed nostalgia. It doesn't make the past look like a place I'd like to live. There's a lot of good period detail to the production, but the best parts were watching Eilis make the transitions of growing and changing in her mind. She's painfully introverted, but proud and capable, able to impose her will in nearly any situation. It's a time of stricter sexual codes, meaning all repressed all the time. More interesting to me, and possibly related, are things like table manners, which impressed me any time anyone sat down to eat, and there are many dinner scenes in this. Brooklyn is a romance on many levels, a boy-meets-girl story and also a story about escaping the limitations of a past and going places where anything is possible. It's heartwarming in a way that's not cheap, but also by-the-numbers and somewhat predictable. It's worth seeing for a nice quiet cry. I wouldn't think of steering you away from it.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. Very lovely film -- I actually wished it had been a bit longer.