While well-acted and well-directed, poor writing mars this otherwise moving romance.
Brooklyn is a sweet little romance, one that has all the right ingredients to be an excellent film indeed. It falls short of that though, never quite hitting the highest notes, or plucking at the heartstrings in quite the right way.
The film has a stellar cast, starring Saoirse Ronan as Eilis, an Irish girl who immigrates to America in search of a better life for herself. There she is taken under the wing of the Irish community – in particular her landlady Madge (Julie Walters) and priest, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent). She begins to fall in love with New Yorker Tony (Emory Cohen), only to face similar romantic entanglements from home, in the form of Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson).
Walters and Broadbent slide easily into their roles, providing much of the film’s humour and grounding, while Gleeson is similarly at ease in the film, never really having to shift into any higher gears throughout his screen-time. Newcomer Cohen is perhaps the weakest of the bunch, his loveable charm threatening to slip into a slightly wooden performance at times, but he is by no means bad. Ronan, as the film’s lead, carries the whole thing by herself, though, for the most part, in a compelling performance that captures both the intense homesickness of a young girl in a foreign country, and the eager passion of young love.
The film is largely well-made, with John Crowley’s direction making for an achingly nostalgic film, one that is beautifully shot and engrossing in a detached, serene kind of way, if occasionally veering too far into cliché and overly sweet sentiment. The main problem with the film comes from its script, which is surprising given that it comes from the talented hands of Nick Hornby. Dragging too long in some places, and skipping too quickly in others, Brooklyn spends too much time on the gaps between words, and were it not for Ronan’s outstanding performance, the film would be much worse than it is. We see a girl struggle with living thousands of miles from home, and falling in love twice over, and yet we never really experience it, or we wouldn’t without Ronan.
Brooklyn is by no means a bad film, but there is so much more to its story that is untouched, and so rather than enjoying the otherwise compelling romance that unfolds before us, we spend our time daydreaming about the film this could have been.
Brooklyn (2015), directed by John Crowley, is distributed in the UK by Lionsgate Films. Certificate 12A.