Brooklyn’s trailer would have you believe it was a po-faced drama. The kind of weepy period piece that we see come in and out of cinemas several times a year and are perfectly acceptable to people that are into that kind of thing, but to most are something that can be safely ignored. Sadly, that depiction has probably robbed a lot of people from seeing a wonderful piece of cinema.
When Eilis Lacey (Saorise Ronan) leaves her mum and sister behind in Ireland to start a new life in New York, she is thrust into a world she’s not quite ready for. Crippling homesickness takes over and she is quite frankly miserable. However, things take a turn for the better when she meets young Italian-American Tony (Emory Cohen) and falls in love. Sadly, just as life begins to settle down she is called back to Ireland by a family tragedy and suddenly finds the crab bucket nature of small town life working to keep her at home.
That plot synopsis probably backs up the trailer, yet it fails to take into account the rich seam of humour that runs through this film. Julie Walters steals every scene she’s in as Eilis’ landlady in New York, her nightly dinners with her group of young borders often descending into hilarious chaos. The film leaves behind a lot of the cliches of the genre and has no problem with mocking them. Even little touches like the eventual love triangle ditching the idea that one of the men must be a prick, make such a huge difference and it is refreshing to see people painted as people rather than tropes.
The real star of the show though is Saorise Ronan. Eilis is a wonderful blend of shy naivety and young hope. Her journey will ring true to anyone who has ever left home to move to another city, whether that be crossing the Atlantic Ocean or moving two hours down the road. She consistently holds her own against experienced acting talent as she features in nearly every scene. When you are the star performer in a film that includes Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent you know you are doing something right.
Brooklyn is one of 2015’s hidden gems. It can often sound dismissive to talk about a film charming you, but it is what Brooklyn does. It takes a story that you may have heard before but roots it in the real world and fills that world with actors who could take even an average script and make it great. When provided with a story this touching and honest it may well have been impossible for them to fail.