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Brooklyn (2015)

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Telling the story of one woman’s immigration to America from Ireland, Brooklyn received Best Picture, Actress and Adapted Screenplay Academy Award nominations, and a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival. Eilis manages to build contrasting lives in two countries, epitomised by the different men she meets and finds her torn between the two. During awards season we had a running joke that the success of John Crowley’s film was actually down to his namesake, my girlfriend’s dad. I missed the chance to see this when it was initially released but was pleased when I spotted is as I scrawled through Netflix one evening.

Saoirse Ronan
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Although the core story to Brooklyn wasn’t massively original, it was told brilliantly well. Right down from its direction and casual pacing to the acting from Saoirse Ronan and her stellar supporting cast. Surrounded by people such as Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson, it would have been easy for her to slip in to the background. Fortunately she takes it by the scruff of the neck and carries the film brilliantly. That’s no mean feat when her character goes through multiple transformations. At first she is the girl that has outgrown her small town, until she is the small fish across the pond. With the help of those around her it becomes home, she finds her place, and she again comes in to her own. The story hinges on that journey ringing true and I thought Ronan was note perfect. Born in New York herself, but raised in Ireland to Irish parents, and I thought it really came across how personal and important a story this was to her. Initially a front runner in the casting of the character, it eventually went to Rooney Mara as Ronan was too young. Mara had to back out after the project stalled for a few years and by that time she was the correct age for the part. Seeing as Julie Walters was quoted as saying that Ronan’s talent left her wanting to go back to drama school it’s fair to say it all worked out in the end.
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Although the scenes in the town of Enniscorthy were as quaint and cute as intended, it was the scenes in Brooklyn itself that I enjoyed the most in this film. Mad Men remains one of my all-time favourite TV shows, and Brooklyn also had that characteristics of that time period spot on (albeit without the chain smoking, drinking and adultery). The fact that Mad Men’s Jessica Paré stars as Eilis’ boss made it feel like she had just walked straight from one 50s New York set to the next. The cars, clothes, products and streets all looked spot on, and those scenes in the shop Eilis worked at looked they had been pulled out of Carol (2015), another film whose characters you half expected to walk past in the background. Crowley cleverly differentiates the two locations with alternate frames and colouring, but they are personified by two love interests. I’m a big Domhnall Gleeson fan and went in to this expecting him to be my favourite of the two. It was Emory Cohen’s Tony that edged it though, and I found him and his American Italian family incredibly likeable. He character was a bit Marlon Brando… except you would actually like to spend time with him. He’s also in Place Beyond the Pines (2012), and I’m sure I’ll be picking that up again sometime soon after having seen him in this. Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent seem like guaranteed home runs as soon as you look up the cast list, and were both first choices for their roles. That isn’t to say either take it easy here though, and both play extremely endearing characters I wanted to see more and more of.
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Bar a couple of background shots that looked a little made for TV (slightly nit-picky there though), Brooklyn perfectly captures the time and is worth a watch for that alone. As well as that though you get storytelling and acting that can be heart-warming one minute, and gut wrenching the next with a finale I was really pleased with. I had enjoyed Netflix’s Stranger Things so much that I had almost forgotten there was actually anything else on there worth watching, but I’m really pleased to have come across this.

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