If you need to be reminded that the universe has shifted in the last 40 years, treat yourself, and stream, select or rent the movie “Brooklyn.” Recently nominated for three Oscars, “Brooklyn” takes time, so appreciate the nuances that demand a slow pace. If you have any allegiances to Ireland and/or Brooklyn, New York, then add “Brooklyn” to your must see list.
Director John Crowley accomplishes magic to tell one young woman’s story of immigration and her literal and metaphorical journey. Crowley orchestrates a beautifully flowing narrative that moves from fear of the unknown to blossoming love.
The actor most responsive to those nuances of time and place and the contrasting textures is Saoirse Ronan, who masters the role of Eilis, the Irish young woman at the story’s center. She’s on her way to America from a hard life in Ireland. Ronan possesses an ethereal, almost angelic, beauty perfectly suited to the role. Within the first fifteen minutes, she’ll make you believe in innocence, love, and hope for a better future.
Eilis’s immigration process seems almost too good to be true. The town priest Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) plucks her from the doldrums of village life and offers her the opportunity of all opportunities: passage to America, complete with a waiting place to live and a job, both compliments of the largess of the Parish.
The sheer magnitude of the adventure ahead really never occurs to Eilis. She takes things one at a time; she observes; she listens. Just a glimpse of the difficulties inherent in a long voyage across the Atlantic is enough to establish Eilis’s challenging circumstances. She knows nothing, but she will learn.
Eilis settles into the pre-selected boarding house for young women, which is run by the irascible Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters). This boarding house has rules, and Mrs. Kehoe expects proper behavior. It’s in this environment that we see Eilis evolve into a savvy New Yorker who finds the man of her dreams. The sweetness of the love story never turns to sap.
Tony (Emory Cohen) comes from a boisterous Italian family whose traditions and lifestyle are so foreign to Eilis, his family might as well be from the moon. Again, Eilis negotiates the situation to find her place. When she’s invited to dine with Tony’s family, she dutiful practices eating spaghetti ahead of time.
The qualities of “Brooklyn” are best appreciated when you have a lazy afternoon to appreciate the interior, sometimes slow rhythms of the film. This story of Eilis’s coming of age and the discoveries she makes about her herself and her adopted land offers us the stuff of optimism and a reminder that dreams really do come true.
Rated PG - 13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.