I really, really, really wanted to like Brooklyn more than I did. I loved the almost casual sense of life happening in front of your eyes, achieved by Irish director John Crowley by always placing the irrepressible Saoirse Ronan in the middle of places, streets, events, rooms - hardly ever alone, but always on her own, a young woman making her way in the world on the way to a new world.
I loved how Yves Bélanger's cinematography imperceptibly shifts from the cold landscapes of closed-off rural Ireland to the vibrant "you've never had it so good" pastel colours of bustling New York. I loved how Nick Hornby's streamlined adaptation of Colm Tóibín's book of 1950s Irish immigration to the US focuses on the small things Eilis grabs on to, as she finds herself a stranger first in a strange land and then in what was supposed to be her home land; how Mr. Crowley and Mr. Hornby devise the narrative arc as a mirror of how growing up happens in real life. And, especially, I loved Ms. Ronan, a wonderfully sensitive actress here perfectly cast and perfectly poised as Eilis Lacey, a young woman torn between past and future, both wise beyond her years and too innocent to understand the ramifications of her choices.
And yet, I was mystified as to why, despite all these wonderful contributions, Brooklyn somehow became less than the sum of its parts. A perfectly correct, well made, sensible, sensitive drama that never takes its audience for granted nor condescends to it. But its many qualities never truly coalesce into the transcendent, transcending melodrama it could have been - maybe because it maintains that well-known reserve of British quality drama, making everything too much about class and breeding and keeping everything simmering along lid but never truly bringing it to a boil (or eventually fizzling out before it gets to explode). It's still a lovely film, and Ms. Ronan alone is worth the ticket.
United Kingdom. Ireland. Canada. 2015. 112 minutes.
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters
Directed by John Crowley; written by Nick Hornby; based on the novel Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín; cinematography Yves Bélanger; music by Michael Brook; production designer François Séguin; costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux; film editor Jake Roberts; produced by Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey; a Wildgaze Films, Finola Dwyer Productions, Parallel Films and Item 7 production, in association with Ingenious Media, RTE and Hanway Films, presented by BBC Films, Téléfilm Canada, Irish Film Board, SODEC and the British Film Institute
Screened January 4th 2016, NOS Alvaláxia 1, Lisbon