Sitting in the soft glow of the cinema, while escaping with the big screen, right from the opening shots watching the film Brooklyn feels like being cosily tucked up in bed immersed in a book.
This film adaptation of Brooklyn, like its own book of the same name, commences in the town of Enniscorthy in the south east of Ireland, where author Colm Tóibín grew up and where Director John Crowley shot the Enniscorthy scenes. Tóibín confides “the town is given a glamour and sometimes a sort of darkness in the film, but more than anything it seems real, exact, true”.
It is a film to love immensely, the people and the time. And the places. For there are more than one.
It is here, from the opening Enniscorthy scenes that we are to embrace the gentleness not only of the town and its community but of the heroine Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Oscar® nominee for Atonement) her two countries two men two choices. Ronan who was born in New York to Irish parents and raised outside Dublin is an extraordinarily perfect casting, proven in the delivery of her role as the undisputed star of the film Brooklyn.
“I think it was very close to my heart because it was about my people. It was the journey that my parents went on back in the ‘80s; they moved over to New York and they kind of went through all the same things, even though it was a different era and a different time.
I was lucky because I’m very Irish in some ways but I do have an American kind of sensibility as well and I was born in New York,” continues Ronan. “I think that made it even more emotional for me, because I had such a strong connection to both of these places and these people.”
Both of her loves are a brilliant casting fit: Emory Cohen in a change of direction as the full-hearted affectionate plumber Tony in America who makes you believe in love again, and similarly Domhnall Gleeson puts in a stellar performance as Jim to court her and us in Ireland. Even with all this acting magic, Julie Waters comes close to stealing the show around the boarding house dining table as the Brooklyn landlady.
These are people you want to love, well nearly all of them. These are real people that you understand. And you are truly touched by them.
Nick Hornby achieves an immensely satisfying translation in writing this screenplay. In developing his story, Hornby captures all the essence of the book, the innocence of the era, the realness of characters and emotions, while retaining the baiting simplicity of the caressing writing of Tóibín. Beyond the beauty of the cinematography, Crowley expands our connection with the Brooklyn story using a softness and subtlety, which just occasionally explodes with power- such as when Eilis passes through the doors of immigration into America.
Yet the most powerful picture that this story paints is through the magnificent eyes of Saoirse Ronan which offer us an extraordinary window to Eilis’ soul, to share in her joy and enthusiasm, and loves, and to tug at our hearts in her loneliness, fear and grief. Past her eyes, every fibre of her brilliance has Saoirse Ronan take us with her in a career best into the two worlds of Eilis, breaking through the screen, jumping through the pages of the book. Hers is truly a superbly splendid shining performance.
And Brooklyn is indeed a rare example of translating book to film that deserves accolades. And you will enjoy it whether or not you have read the book, whether you first read it before or after seeing the film.
Brooklyn will make you laugh and make you cry and you will want to gobble it up and then go back for second helpings.
Brooklyn is distributed in Australia by Transmission Films and opens in cinemas around the country on February 11.