John Crowley’s BROOKLYN is a nice enough,
uncomplicated, straight-down-the-line romance. Nothing wrong with that, and
although it didn’t particularly resonate with me, it will be very much to the
liking of its target audience.
Adapted faithfully from Colm Tóibín’s simple historical romance novel by Nick Hornby, we follow Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) on her journey from 1950s Ireland to the New York borough as she goes in search of better employment prospects. After a rough beginning and a strong bout of homesickness for her dear sister, she finds a good job and falls in love in local Italian boy Tony (Emory Cohen). But tragedy and complication will soon strike, forcing Eilis to make some hard decisions.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with what’s currently in BROOKLYN; it’s what’s missing that’s the problem. It’s an enjoyable but purely vanilla experience, and a solid entry into the romance genre (certainly a cut above anything recent from Nicholas Sparks’ now annual, tired, pre-fab servings), but there’s very little that’s exceptional about Crowley’s adaptation. Saoirse Ronan is easily the standout (a good thing too, since the film rests on her shoulders) and the likes of Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent and Domnhall Gleeson never disappoint, but the performances are about it. Everything else is just… good. The period-setting visual effects are passable, there’s nothing particularly impressive about Yves Bélanger’s cinematography or François Séguin’s production design. Michael Brook’s score is very nice, but from any given point Tóibín’s story is wholly predictable, while Crowley’s direction remains wholly unremarkable, and most deeply frustrating of all: there’s absolutely no subtext to the piece whatsoever – particularly annoying given the ‘hot button’ status immigration currently holds worldwide.
If you like curling up with an unchallenging romance novel, then this is for you. If you’re looking for a bit more complexity, see CAROL a second time – and don’t ask me how BROOKLYN beat Todd Haynes’ utterly superior film to a Best Picture nomination: that is a mystery for the ages…
BROOKLYN was released November 5 2015 in the UK, November 25 2015 in the US, and is released February 11 in Australia and NZ