This is an odd case, in my opinion. It’s a simple story–a romantic drama to be exact–and it’s nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It’s not the type of film you’d think would be nominated in this category. It’s great, sure, but the Academy usually recognizes either groundbreaking films or controversial films–nowadays at least. This one is neither. But that should just show you how strong of a film it is.
Much like 2009’s An Education, Brooklyn is very low concept. It’s not controversial, it’s not political, it’s not even all that original. But it hits its audience in a sensitive place with its charm about a topic that we can all relate to–love.
Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen, follows an Irish immigrant, Eilis (Ronan), as she comes to the United States seeking new opportunity. We see pretty early on that she is a selfless person–always doing community service and being involved in her church. Although she comes from a privileged background, Eilis doesn’t look down on anyone. But she’s very shy and doesn’t know how to talk to new people. Men flirt with her, but she just turns the other way. That is, until, she meets Tony (Cohen), an uneducated Italian-American plumber, who develops an immediate attraction to her.
This is where the film really gets going, though it comes in a little later than we’d like. However, we don’t terribly mind since we love getting the “immigrant trying to make it in America” portion of the story as well. It helps to round out the film. The filmmakers know that they can’t just make a 2 hour love story without bordering on vanity, so they don’t try to fool us and do it anyway.
Tony has a simple outlook on life. He’s a dreamer, but lacks confidence. Even before he really knows why, he loves Eilis whole-heartedly. They bring the best out of each other. But what makes their relationship so real is how they better one another when they’re apart. Although arguably less shy than Tony, Eilis now handles herself with more confidence and starts getting along with others even better.
I’m not sure I’ve seen on-screen chemistry like I have in this film. Ronan and Cohen are immaculate together. And that’s a true attribution to their performances. The two of them have so much depth both together and apart. Cohen is convincing in showing us the non-stereotypical vulnerability of Tony. And with the help of Ronan’s outstanding performance, you can see what’s going on in Eilis’ mind without her saying too much. It’s her decisions that give her the most depth.
Brooklyn is relatable on so many levels. It’s also about leaving home and that transition to recognizing home as somewhere new.
The city of Brooklyn is nice to look at in its own right in the early 1950s, but Ireland is even prettier. Luckily, the filmmakers recognize this and take us back there one last time.
You don’t often see people fawning over a film that simply romanticize love, but it’s the earnestness and simplicity of Brooklyn that tugs at our strings the most. Without ever feeling contrived, it restores confidence in something that we may often take for granted in this day and age.