Sundance Review: Brooklyn

This is the first of two reviews of films I saw at the Sundance Festival Tuesday (look for my review on The Witch sometime tomorrow hopefully.) Brooklyn follows the story of an Irish immigrant named Eilis who leaves her family and her country in the 1950's in hopes of making a living for herself. From the promo pictures released of this film you'd be led to believe that Domhnall Gleeson (the lovable lad from About Time, Frank, and The Force Awakens) and Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Hanna and that awful Host movie) share equal screen time and it's "their story." These set of expectations were thrown for a loop when it turned out to really and purely be Saoirse's movie and [SPOILER highlight to read] Domhnall doesn't even really appear until the last 40 minutes or so... he is actually relegated to being the disposable love interest. sniff. [/END SPOILERS] Saoirse is a lovely actress and gives the role her all. However... I just always found myself liking every side character more than her. As much as Ronan does most of the heavy lifting, she has quite the supporting cast to fall back on... and they're what make the movie for me.

Besides the cast though, what really drew me to this film was the fact that the screenplay had been written by Nick Hornby (though based off a novel by Colm Toibin.) I consider About A Boy to be a witty marvelous gem of a film... and I'm also fond of An Education as well. Brooklyn is not an About A Boy for me because I just don't love the main character. But it does share quite a lot of similarities to An Education. Like that film, it's a bright and beautiful mid-century period piece that's certainly fun to gawk at. I definitely heard a few collective "Ooohs" over some of the shots of New York. Both lead characters also happen to be young women who make some questionable choices with regard to their love lives that make the more experienced viewer cringe. Unlike some Hornby written films though, I'm not sure I'm given as much insight into some of the characters choices. I mean on a surface level I can understand some of the choices she makes, but without verbalizing her inner thoughts a lot of her actions toward the end of the movie feel out of character. This makes parts of the ending feel unearned (though the moments that are earned are very beautiful.)

Essentially for me Brooklyn is a good film that was tempered by my expectations (to be fair...when someone is second billed you expect them to be the second biggest character.) I suppose though if I had the choice to give any one character more screen time though it wouldn't be either of her love interests! Instead, I'd pick to have far more of the silly 8-year-old brother of her American suitor. As I said though, the story is Saoirse's character and there's more to it than just a love triangle. I really enjoyed seeing her journey of learning how to survive so far away from her home...and how in fact she could create a new one. Brooklyn is a solid film that if nothing else...is incredibly beautiful to look at. EMILY RATING: 8/10


Johanna said...

I would still like to see it though.

And as I said this morning, lets call it the "Left Behind" syndrome. Lea Thompson second billing for that small bit as the Kool Aid drinker.

Sarah said...

I wonder why they did the billing the way they did. Perhaps they were trying to be misleading to draw viewers in.

Well, the pictures are definitely pretty to look at. I love that green swimsuit of hers. :)

Barbara Newson said...

Have not seen Brooklyn. As I read your review I wonder if the author purposely left it to interpretation the leads actions and choices. Reading a bit about the author of Brooklyn, he describes his writing as it comes from silence. Might be purpose driven to leave the questions of choice up in the air and not explained. Room to ponder or reflect in my case as a female who's about the age of the author.

PaulH said...

Well. Ronan has dropped one or two faux pas regarding film choices in the past, but I'm happy this extraordinary actress has at last found a meaty role she can sink her teeth into. The early reviews are all extremely positive, and Oscar must surely come knocking in various categories for the film, esp leading actress.