“Brooklyn”, a lush yet overly sentimental fairy tale
“Brooklyn” would have benefited from a hefty dose of understatement. Just about all the characters are well-meaning, and the film does not try to be edgy, which is fine. Yet, the excess of emotion just about suffocates the film. It tells the story of a young Irish woman named Ellis (Aylish), played fantastically by Saoirse Ronan, who needs to find work, and is offered a job in Brooklyn by a kindly priest, Father Flood, also played very well by Jim Broadbent. When Ellis arrives in Brooklyn on a boat, she goes to live at a boarding house, with about three other girls, who eventually warm up to her. The woman who runs the boarding house is played by Julie Walters, and she is taciturn and strict, yet we can tell that she cares deeply for all the girls that live there; honestly, the movie could have used more of her rough complexity all around.
Ellis goes to an Irish dance with her boarding mates, and she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a young Italian man who goes to Irish dances because he likes Irish girls. The two of them hit it off pretty fast, and they become a steady couple. Tony brings Ellis over to his house to have dinner with his family, and his little brother tells her that the Italians don’t like Irish people, one of the reasons that all the police are Irish and they let Italians get beat up. This anecdote had racial undertones, even with how casually it was told, and could sort of be connected to today’s current events. It
In the second half of the film, Ellis’s sister dies, and she returns to Ireland. When she is back in Ireland, she meets another man, named Jim Farrell (Domnhall Gleeson) who she is slightly tempted by, and while I was unsure if she would go back to America, her dilemma lacked urgency. This was mostly because the two men she liked to varying degrees, were severely lacking in charisma. They were both sweet, but they did not have a lot of dimension as characters, and they were a little too bland for me to become deeply invested in.
Toward the beginning, there is a lovely scene where Ellis is serving food at a homeless shelter, mostly for Irish veterans, with Father Flood. This scene works because it depicts Ellis’s patience, good will, and empathy. It was also very moving when the Irishmen started singing an Irish folk song together. It was a bit of a cliche, but it showed how even with just about everything lost, the men could still be brought together by their music.
“Brooklyn” has beautiful landscapes, as Irish films usually do, and the cinematography is stunning. Yet, too much of the time, the film is schmaltzy, with an overload of emotion. In scenes where people shed tears, especially, the director should have yelled cut earlier. The emotion, at times was too on-the-nose, and I usually get exasperated in movies when people cry for extended periods of time. Saoirse Ronan did give a good performance, but she could have underplayed her character, and been less weepy; this is the reason Julie Walters is such a great character, never going too far emotionally.
I can understand the Oscar buzz for Saoirse Ronan, yet I think the film is not worthy of all the praise it is receiving. When Ellis gets on the boat to Brooklyn, the music is over-the-top emotionally, and was not necessary. There is a woman that Ellis meets on the boat, who is only in about two scenes, and she strongly resembled Maureen O’Hara. She was just as charming as her, too. I could easily imagine this same story being told in the ’50’s with O’Hara. It is old-fashioned and unabashed in its sincerity. I liked bits and pieces of the film, and it was not an uncomfortable sit by any means, yet I wanted more insight and commentary on the immigrant experience, as opposed to just a harmless fairy tale.