Every year, from around October, the real Oscar level and Oscar bait movies start to roll out. They’re usually full of familiar, prestige names in front of and behind the cameras. They’re also often movies I’ve known about for a while, and read things about them while they were being made. But there’s also generally one or two that come out of nowhere. I know nothing about the director, I’m only passingly familiar with one or two of the actors, and I know absolutely nothing about the story until the rave reviews and Oscar predictions begin rolling in. This year, that movie is Brooklyn.
A young woman living in a small, post WWII Irish village, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is content, but her world is very small. This changes when her sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott) arranges for Eilis to movie to America. After a horrific boat journey filled with seasickness, Eilis arrives in Brooklyn where a friend of the family, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) has arranged a room for Eilis in a boarding house, and a job in a department store.
At first, her homesickness is almost enough to destroy Eilis, but Father Flood enrolls her in a bookkeeping course at night school, where she meets handsome Brooklyn local, Tony (Emory Cohen). Being from a close knit Italian American family, Tony is worried about introducing an Irish girl to his spaghetti slurping brood, but the two inevitably fall in love and decide that it’s worth the risk.
Just as life becomes seemingly perfect for Eilis in America, tragedy strikes Eilis returns to Ireland. While she has every intention of getting back to Brooklyn and Tony as soon as possible, things get complicated when she spends more and more time with local boy, Jim (Domhnall Gleeson). Her guilt over abandoning her own family, combined with her chemistry with Jim, makes Eilis wonder if she deserves the life she had been building in America.
Despite the constant stream of glowing reviews for Brooklyn, I had kept my expectations pretty low. It felt like it might go more into melodrama, sappy Oscar bait territory, and less into solid, affecting, Oscar level drama. But, it turns out, that constant stream of glowing reviews was justified and no overreaction.
This entire movie lives and dies on the performance of Saoirse Ronan, and she more than lives up to that pressure. Thinking back on it now, I can’t remember a single scene without Ronan at its centre. There’s barely a second without her on camera, and she’s so good, that even then, it feels like there’s not nearly enough Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn.