If Jay-Z raps about it, you know it’s a pretty cool place.
Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is a young girl from Ireland who’s getting a bit tired of the mundane life she’s currently living. She has a nice job, and gets along with her sister and mother just fine, but doesn’t know what’s really keeping her. That’s why, when she hears about a boat leaving for the U.S., Eilis gets hops aboard, and heads for Brooklyn, New York. While she’s initially homesick and scared, Eilis begins to get used to the way New York is and all of the promise it holds for her. Not only does she have a cashier job at a fancy store, she’s also caught the eye of a local Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen). Though Eilis isn’t quite experienced with boys, she decides to give Tony a chance anyway and eventually, the two start to hit it off; despite their two very different backgrounds, they still find ways to connect and make each other happy. However, a situation at home forces Eilis to come back to Ireland, which then makes her reconsider what she’s been doing with her life and leave her to wonder whether or not she wants to stay home, or go back to Brooklyn, where anything and everything is possible?
Nick Hornby is one of my favorite writers of all time. Most of his stories are humorous takes on life, but never do they ever feel as if they’re getting too ahead of themselves, or bordering on “parody”. If anything, they feel like honest-to-God, understandable tales told from the perspectives of people who, quite frankly, are a lot like you or I. They’re not these extremely lovable, likable, or attractive people in these larger-than-life predicaments – most of the time, they’re just average people living life as well as they can.
It sounds so damn ordinary, but that’s actually the kind of beauty behind Hornby’s writing.
That’s why Brooklyn, another piece written by Hornby, feels like it couldn’t have been written by anybody else; it’s funny, poignant, relateable, and most of all, sweet. Hornby has, and probably always will, continue to keep on telling coming-of-agers till the day he can’t write anymore, which is fine with me; none of them ever show signs of slowing down, nor do they show a writer who has clearly lost track of time. Which is why it’s quite shocking to realize just how good Brooklyn is, and just how much it feels like a Nick Hornby movie.
For better, as well as, maybe, for worse, no character here is presented as a terrible specimen, nor are they treated as later-day saints. Mostly everybody in this flick are normal, everyday folk that you’d probably meet on the street, have a talk or two with, and leave, not quite remembering anything special about them, but at least remembering that a conversation did in fact take place. Once again, I know that all of this sounds incredibly mundane, but for some reason, in the hands of Hornby, it feels like so much more. And most of that, of course, has to do with the fact that we’ve got, yet again, another very strong protagonist from Hornby who, like all the rest, feels like a real person and not just a made-up type Hollywood execs like to think are real.
What’s perhaps the most interesting element about Eilis, as well as Saoirse Ronan’s performance, is how that, no matter how many twists, turns and absolute surprises her life takes, she always stays believable. Because this is a female character in the lead role, it would be easy to have the film be all about her just trying to choose between what mate she wants in her life, which one she doesn’t, and leaving it all at that. However, Hornby and director John Crowley are smarter people than that and know that Eilis doesn’t just need men in her life to make herself happy or survive; they’re certainly a nice acquirement, but they are, in no way, shape, or fashion, the reasons for living.
All Eilis needs, is her own smarts, independence, and most of all, need to want to make those in her life happy.
But the movie never tries to lionize her, or anybody else surrounding her. There’s quite a few characters, like Emory Cohen’s Tony, who feel like they could have easily been one-dimensional caricatures, but instead, go a bit deeper than that. As Tony, Cohen gets to blend both sides of this character’s persona; there’s the strong, meat-head Brando-type, while on the other side, there’s the sweeter, more romantic type that’s all about getting married and starting a family with whoever catches his heart first. Cohen’s great in this role and the chemistry he and Ronan share, despite the romance itself may coming on a bit too quick, still feels genuine enough that it gives us something to wish and hope for by the end.
And not to mention that, yes, Ronan’s great in this role. Ever since she’s grown-up a bit more, Ronan hasn’t quite had the best movies to work with; though she’s had plenty of roles to stretch herself and make us forget that she was that little girl from Atonement, the movies themselves have always, well, underwhelmed. However, as Eilis, Ronan gets the perfect opportunity to not only make us adore the hell out of her, but also view her as a full-on, smart-thinking, and understanding grown-up who has an idea of what she wants in life and is going about figuring that all out for the time being. Ronan’s got this bright beauty to her that makes it hard for the camera to turn away, and even harder for us to not pay attention to her.
Basically, I can’t wait to see what else is coming up for Ronan in the near-future.
But like I said about Brooklyn – it’s everything you expect from a movie penned by Nick Hornby. It’s not just, at times, laugh-out-loud hilarious, but also quite insightful about certain aspects of life like family, love, marriage, and perhaps, most importantly, finding yourself in one location. With recent events, it’s nice to see a flick that not only shows the type of inspirational promise that America, at one point, promised for the whole outside world, but in ways, still does to this very day. People who wanted to start anew, or find themselves, were able to, just by hopping on a boat, train, or plane, and come straight to America. In all honesty, that’s what this country was made from and it’s lovely to get a little reminder that, regardless of what one may read, there’s still plenty of promise within America.
Like love. Like work. And basically, just life itself.
Consensus: Funny, honest, and best of all, heartfelt, Brooklyn is a tremendous coming-of-ager that gives a glimpse into one young woman’s life, without ever trying too hard to get in the way of it and instead, just allow for her to tell her own story, the way it was meant to be told.
8.5 / 10