Brooklyn was one of those films where I saw the trailers and it just didn’t grab me. But then I saw all the BAFTA and Oscars interest; plus the fact that Saoirse Ronan is a bloody good actress, and so I just had to give it a look.
Ms Ronan plays Eilis (pronounced Aylish), one of many from Ireland emmigrating to America in the early ’50s in the hope of a better life, despite leaving behind her mother and sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott), but on the plus side she’s also leaving behind small-town mentality and idiots such as ‘Nettles Kelly’ (Brid Brennan) who runs the local convenience store, but it must be the only one within miles since the owner loves insulting her customers.
Across the pond, things didn’t really seem too different to me since Eilis gets work in another store, Bartocci’s, and joins some of the girls she lives with who go to the “wretched” dance on a Saturday night at the village hall, hoping in vain to meet a man who will sweep them off their feet. So, it’s the local, in-person equivalent of Plenty of Fish. However, it’s a more simple time and the war was now over, so it was seen as the land of prosperity, as well as the time when when becoming an accountant was an aspiration, and women wore very pointy bras.
There’s some clever subtle humour from time to time, particularly when Julie Walters is onscreen as landlady Mrs Kehoe, where there are lots of girls lodging with the Irish matriarch, including new girl Dolores (Jenn Murray) who gets snooty Diana (Eve Macklin) and Patty (Emily Bett Rickards) off to a tee. Although not present as often as I’d have liked, one of Ms Walters’ best lines was, as the girls crack up, “I see now that giggyness is the 8th deadly sin. A giddy girl is every bit as evil as a slothful man, and the noise she makes is a lot worse.” How she didn’t crack up on set every five minutes is a miracle. Seeing the other ladies around the table do exactly that, Ms Walters maintained her composure brilliantly.
I would say it’s easy to see why she won the Best Supporting Actress BAFTA, but only had she been onscreen a lot more. Similarly, Saoirse Ronan won Best Leading Actress, but I preferred her more as the quick-witted (and punchy) Hanna. Brooklyn also took the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film.
In addition, and with a brief appearance from Eva Birthistle as Georgina, there’s also the old adage about not eating when you’re on a boat if you’re prone to seasickness, especially when there’s a chance you might not have access to a toilet…
However, despite all this movie’s plaudits, I found myself almost completely unmoved by the troubles in the life of young Eilis, where Saoirse Ronan spends most of the time looking like she’s a rabbit trapped in the glare of a car’s headlights, and occasionally like comedian Sean Hughes in My Life As A Startled Bunny. As for the character, she left Ireland to go to America, she met a bloke – Tony (Emory Cohen), a situation called her back to Ireland for a time, and into the interests of another young man – Jim (Domhnall Gleeson). But which to choose? How she ever found time to enrole in a night-class for book-keeping, God alone knows. She’s meant to be all innocent, yet clearly wants to have her cake and eat it.
It also doesn’t help that there’s very few cast members onscreen who don’t come across as a set of walking clichés. As an additional fact, not a great deal of filming was actually done in Brooklyn. The non-Ireland scenes were mostly shot in Montreal, Quebec, with some done at Coney Island. Well, they had to CGI Brooklyn Bridge in somehow.
The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and presented in 1080p high definition, looking stunning and brilliantly evoking the period of the 1950s, so if you were drawn into the story, then that will surely have contributed. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma screen with a Samsung BDP1500 player.
As for the sound, it’s in DTS 5.1 HD-MA and while it’s not a crash/bang/wallop film, it delivers the dialogue and atmosphere perfectly well.
There’s not much to cross the Atlantic ocean for in the extras:
- Deleted/Alternate Scenes (7:36): 10 brief scenes including one which mentions a type of stocking aimed at “negro customers”. I struggled to find a black face in the cast while watching the film.
- Interviews (6:13): Standard Q&A pieces with Saoirse Ronan and author Colm Tóibín, who talk just off-camera to an unseen interviewer with the questions asked on caption cards.
- Featurette (5:41): Made-for-TV-style fluff. Clips from the films mixed with on-set footage and chat from the cast and crew, including the above two interviews… which shows that more interviews were done but which aren’t here. Why? Then again, they’re largely forgettable.
The disc contains English subtitles, a bog-standard 12 chapters, and the main menu featurettes a static shot of Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson, with subtle animation in the background including water flowing by the Brooklyn bridge.
Running time: 112 minutes
Cat no: LGB95300
Released: February 29th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD-MA, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format: BD50
Director: John Crowley
Producers: Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey
Screenplay: Nick Hornby (based on the novel by Colm Tóibín)
Music: Michael Brook
Eilis: Saoirse Ronan
Tony: Emory Cohen
Jim Farrell: Domhnall Gleeson
Rose: Fiona Glascott
Miss Kelly: Brid Brennan
Father Flood: Jim Broadbent
Mary Lacey: Jane Brennan
Nancy: Eileen O’Higgins
George Sheridan: Peter Campion
Georgina: Eva Birthistle
Mrs Kehoe: Julie Walters
Patty: Emily Bett Rickards
Diana: Eve Macklin
Sheila: Nora-Jane Noone
Miss McAdam: Mary O’Driscoll
Dorothy: Samantha Munro
Miss Fortini: Jessica Paré
Mary: Maeve McGrath
Dolores: Jenn Murray
Priest: Hugh Gormley
Mrs Brady: Emma Lowe
Mrs Farrell: Karen Ardiff
Mr Farrell: Gary Lydon
Maria: Niamh McCann
Mr Brown: Denis Conway
Mrs Byrne: Aine Ni Mhuiri
Mr Rosenblum: Alain Goulem
Frankie Doran: Iarla O’Lionaird
Mrs Fiorello: Ellen David
Laurenzio: Christian de la Cortina
Mr Fiorello: Paulino Nunes
Frankie Fiorello: James DiGiacomo
Maurizio: Michael Zegen
Girl on Deck: Mella Carron
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.