Brooklyn Review - Completely And Utterly Timeless
[LFF 2015] One of the best films of the year.
Rating: Let me apologise in advance. I'm going to use one of those review phrases that is so hackneyed and liberally applied that the actual meaning of it has been weakened and ultimately lost in time. It's a cliché that manages to be both a rather unnecessary indictment of modern cinema and a delusional claim that movies were all brilliant at some point in the imagined past. But trust me, it does mean something. OK, you have been warned - here we go. They don't them like Brooklyn any more. I'm sorry, but they just don't. It is a timeless movie, a personal-yet-universal tale that cares about its characters above all else and leaves more of an impact than any recent prestige picture. That it does so with a framing that could have been so easily misused only makes the usage of such a typically hyperbolic phrase all the more justified. At its heart (both thematically and metaphorically), the film is held together by Saoirse Ronan, who delivers her best performance yet and pretty much locks herself in for a second Oscar nom (although the supporting cast are fully immersed in their roles too, especially Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson as her two love interests). Her Eilis (pronounced Ay-lish for those of us not from Ireland), an Irish girl in the 1950s who moves over to, you guessed it, Brooklyn, is a perfectly-observed embodiment of character; the stages of adapting to a new environment are captured in a restrained-but-progressive manner. Eilis begins as a clear outsider, standing out uncomfortably in every frame thanks to Ronan's anxious performance, juxtaposed wardrobe choices and subtle cinematography, but gradually becomes a part of the Brooklyn scene. As we go on her circumstantial timidity wears down to leave a chirpy confidence, only for that to be subsequently displaced by a return to the childhood status quo when she's unexpectedly uprooted and pulled back to Ireland. It's intrinsically a great narrative, but in this film every element of the telling comes together in unexpected harmony. Of particular greatness is the use of contrast between the actor and her environment, and the reduction of that emphasis as the movie goes on, which creates a tonal and visual representation of Eilis' gradual emotional development. The film really is a mirror of its character's journey, taking its time to tell the story and not locking in on its ultimate end goal until the final ten minutes. Playing the long game is in fact director John Crowley's smartest move, meaning that Brooklyn goes from being just a wonderful watch to a fully encapsulating experience. That feeling of pausing for a moment and assessing your life, seeing how the once so crisp and clear present has become the distant past and the person who occupies those memories is a far cry from the one reliving them? That's what Brooklyn is. It flawlessly recreates that emotion so gradually over its runtime that it's like growing up and discovering the world for first time in microcosm. Beautiful. Seen as part of the London Film Festival 2015. Brooklyn is in US cinemas from 4th November and UK cinemas from 6th November.