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‘Brooklyn’ redefines the meaning of hope

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Saorise Ronan and Emory Cohen star in “Brooklyn,” a heartfelt story of a young Irish woman immigrating to New York. Their chemistry and passionate performances create a movie truly worth Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

A touching immigrant story that transports audiences into 1950s New York, “Brooklyn” is a romantic drama, filled with rich history and emotion.  

The storyline, based on Colm Toibin’s 2009 novel “Brooklyn,” tells the tale of Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish woman who immigrates to New York. There, she faces the same struggle as the millions of immigrants that traveled to the United States, which is the need to assimilate to an unfamiliar way of life and the melancholy yearning for a faraway home with no hopes of returning. Ellis begins to enjoy her life in New York more when she falls for a friendly Italian-American plumber, Tom (Emory Cohen). However, after Ellis visits her hometown, she is faced with temptations from a local, Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), and is torn between the two lovers. 

Viewers easily connect with the protagonist and are engrossed by Lacey’s captivating journey to overcome alienation in a new, unfamiliar environment.

Director John Crowley takes the audience through the complexities of each character and lets the actors in the film shine. Every performance is full of emotion and evokes a sense of nostalgia. Ronan, Irish-born herself, delivers a stunning performance that quickly captures the heart of the audience. Ronan’s character Lacey begins her journey as someone shy and inexperienced in the real world, and we see her grow into her true self throughout the movie. However, this inner transformation is subtle, for Ronan’s character is not a fearless, larger than life heroine, but instead a very real woman struggling to find her place in the world. With quiet strength and determination, Ronan is able to captivate the audience and bring the story of Ellis Lacey to life.

The costumes are very well selected and do an exemplary job of enhancing the setting of the era. In particular, in the scene at Coney Island, Lacey and Tom both wear baggy, bright colored swimsuits authentic to the time period.

Although “Brooklyn” has a large number of outstanding elements, the character development is generally lacking in the supporting cast. There is little insight into the life of the other characters in the story. Even with the sincerity and kindness of  Cohen’s character, he remains largely two-dimensional despite being the main love interest. This is primarily due to Crowley’s intentions to illustrate small moments in the main character’s life. However, there is little to no insight into the other characters in the story, although it clearly builds the potential for further development. 

“Brooklyn” feels like the result of a grandchild’s inquiry into her ancestors. As a drama, it paints a gritty and touching look into one young woman’s journey. The film is not afraid to illustrate the loneliness of an immigrant alone in a new country, but does so in an intimate and refreshing manner.

“Brooklyn” is up for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress. Ronan’s outstanding performance as Lacey arguably deserves Best Actress and the film has a good shot at Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.


1 hour, 51 minutes

Rated: PG-13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language

Directed by John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen

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