by Jordan Canahai
Like many critics who found themselves surprised by how moved they were by the period drama Brooklyn, I’ve been struggling to find the best adjectives to convey my feelings toward it. Resplendent is the one I keep coming back to. Set in the early 1950s, this immigrant story based on Colm Toibin’s novel follows a young Irishwoman, Eilis, (Saoirse Ronan) as she leaves her mother and sister and travels to America to make a new life for herself in Brooklyn. There she works as a front desk employee at a Manhattan department store and falls for a good-hearted Italian youth (Emory Cohen). After a family tragedy brings her back to her homeland of Ireland and she crosses paths with another man (Domhnall Gleeson) she must choose between her new life and her old one. Director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby allow the coming-of-age tale to unfold with equal measures pathos and insight. Ronan is revelatory in the lead role, perfectly conveying the emotional arc of a young woman torn not just between two men, but two worlds. Her scenes with both Cohen and Gleeson sparkle with warmth and romantic longing. There are also healthy doses of good-natured humor as well, such as in dinner-table scenes at Eilis’s Brooklyn boarding house, where she and her fiesty housemates butt heads with their overbearing landlady. Brooklyn may seem relatively conventional as it unfolds but in its entirety is quite extraordinary, and is also one of the best films of the year.
Watch the trailer for Brooklyn
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