What does it mean to call a place home? This is the primary question that is explored in Brooklyn, a period drama set amidst the 1950s that follows the story of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), an Irish immigrant who is trying to begin a new life in America. Fueled by stunning performances, particularly from leads Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen, Brooklyn is understated but beautiful, and manages to effectively elicit feelings of sadness, uncertainty, and optimism simultaneously.
In many ways Brooklyn feels somewhat old-fashioned, almost a call back to an earlier period of cinema while still maintaining contemporary polish. It is slow and deliberate but satisfyingly elegant in delivery; the narrative unfolds in a naturalistic way that is very reminiscent of classical Hollywood films from the period it is set. The score is calming and reserved, with much of the music being classical Irish folk. Juxtaposed against the frightening and alien hustle of 1950s Brooklyn, this music accents the almost nostalgic sensation of homesickness that is being experience by Eilis and at least in my own case, made me feel something similar.
Visually the film is beautiful in its own way, utilizing a myriad of partially muted colors to evoke a melancholic tone that is very fitting given the themes of homesickness. The organization of the frame is efficient and pleasing to the eye, and overall Brooklyn is a film that is simply nice to look at. However, the handheld camera was utilized a little too often for my liking. While it elicits an 'up close and personal' sensation, I think a more omniscient camera may have been beneficial, especially during Eilis's first moments in America to further establish the feeling of alienation.
The least inspired aspect of the film is undoubtedly the basic plot - which has been done time and again in various mediums - but the wonderful visuals and engaging soundtrack work together with Saoirse Ronan's fantastic performance to bring the story to life, making it not only engaging but also rewarding. Ronan's performance is both eye catching and subtle; she truly embodies the character of Eilis Lacey and as an audience we are captivated by her growth over the course of the film purely through Ronan's hard work.
Brooklyn is a slow burning drama that asks its audience to be patient. While many do not mind the slow and steady pacing, it is not for everyone. This is a film that requires the viewer's commitment; it is not something you can watch whilst half asleep and hope to be entertained. That being said, if you enjoy well-acted and crafted period dramas this one should not be missed. Visually and audibly mesmerizing, Brooklyn is a fantastic example of classical film-making done right, and I urge you to go and check it out for yourself.