Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Mary O’Driscoll, Eileen O’Higgins, Emily Bett Rickards, Eve Macklin, Maeve McGrath, Jenn Murray, Aine Ni Mhuiri, Nora-Jane Noone, Jane Brennan, Jessica Pare, Ellen David, Paulino Nunes.
Nothing can truly prepare you for that moment when you walk through immigration at J.F.K. or when you step off the boat and look to the west to begin a new life, nothing prepares you for the home sickness, for the memory of the people you have left behind or for the realisation that no matter how far you travel, home is now only a plane journey away.
For those that left Ireland, Europe or beyond before the 1960s when international travel was still further opened up, the journey was a step into the unknown, you may as well have been travelling to Mars or Venus than to New York. Yet millions made the journey across the Atlantic and the great melting pot presided and preened over by the French Lady on Liberty Island welcomed nearly all of them.
For one such young woman, Brooklyn was a place in which life was to start as she finally managed to leave the small minded talk and ultra Catholic view points of her town and yet, like all new immigrants to the New World, the pull of the past is ever barking and plotting in the back ground.
Saoirse Ronan has had the word star hanging over her for many years, and in respect deservedly so, yet until she took on the role as Eilis Lacey, the young woman to whom the world has become so much bigger than the living room of her mother’s house, she really didn’t seem to be garnering the attention for the truly dramatic role, the costumed drama heroine. Yet throughout Brooklyn she is as smart, sophisticated and perfectly in control of her character as you could ask for and she becomes an actor to whom in a couple of years time will no doubt compared to the likes of Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorhead and Cate Blanchett, such is her depth of emotion and standing that anything is now possible.
Nick Hornby’s screenplay frames perfectly the pull of the past and the future that we are capable of carving out for ourselves, the dutiful son or daughter remaining behind rather than striding out into the world, the excitement of being allowed to find your own boundaries and freedoms without it being imposed by a morally bankrupt local society. The tense scene, the standoff between Eilis and her former part time employer, personified this greatly as the realisation that once you leave somewhere you can never truly go back was one in which would strike a chord with any child who has left home against the backdrop of desire and adventure. People are never the same again and neither are those that stay.
With excellent support from Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen and Julie Walters, Brooklyn is a film that doesn’t just tug at the heart; it installs faith that no matter what, the human spirit is strong enough to reason against returning home once it has found a place to be loved, a terrifically moving film and one that in any other year might be nominated for an Oscar!
Ian D. Hall