[Screen It]


(2015) (Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen) (PG-13)

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Drama: A young Irish woman moves to 1950s era Brooklyn to start her life anew, only to find herself drawn back to her small hometown.
It's the early 1950s, and Eilis Lacey (SAOIRSE RONAN) is a young woman who lives in a small Irish town with her older sister, Rose (FIONA GLASCOTT), and their widowed mother, Mrs. Lacey (JANE BRENNAN). Unlike Eilis' best friend, Nancy (EILEEN O'HIGGINS), who has a boyfriend in George Sheridan (PETER CAMPION), or Rose who has a good job as a bookkeeper, Eilis has no boyfriend, and works for the awful Miss Kelly (BRID BRENNAN) in a local bakery. With no bright future, she readily accepts an offer arranged by Rose and Father Flood (JIM BROADBENT), who's in Brooklyn, to move to the United States.

He gets her living accommodations in a boarding house for young women run by Madge Kehoe (JULIE WALTERS), and gets a job working as a clerk at Bartoccis where her boss, Miss Fortini (JESSICA PARE), is concerned that her shyness and lack of self-confidence will scare away customers. Things look up for Eilis when she meets local plumber Antonio "Tony" Fiorello (EMORY COHEN) who's instantly smitten with her. The two eventually become a couple despite her being Irish and him being Italian, and secretly marry.

She's finally coming into her own, has eliminated her homesickness, and passed night classes in bookkeeping when she gets bad news from home and ends up returning there to spend time with her mother. With Nancy unaware that her friend is married, she sets up a double date with them, George and his friend, Jim Farrell (DOMHNALL GLEESON). As Eilis waits for Nancy's upcoming nuptials, she ends up temping for her sister's former firm and spending more time with Jim, all of which leaves her conflicted about where her future should lie.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Except for the most well-adjusted and balanced among us who are perfectly happy and content wherever they are -- whether that's in regards to actual physical location, career, health, family, finances or what have you -- most of the rest of us have at one point or another in our lives suffered from the "grass is greener" mindset.

You know, where life would be better if you had this or that, or lived here or there, just as long as any of that was different than your current situation. Of course, once one gets to that literal or figurative place, sometimes that just creates another comparative opportunity, either for something once again new, or occasionally a return to the old.

If there's any place where one might think the grass is greener -- and I mean that in a literal sense -- it would be Ireland, a country closely tied to that particular color. Yet, for Eilis Lacey (a terrific Saoirse Ronan), the bladed plants of the coloring found between blue and yellow on the visible light spectrum is probably anywhere else other than her early 1950s era, small Irish town.

She's the protagonist in "Brooklyn," director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby's adaptation of Colm Toibin's historical period novel of the same name. With no compelling future -- unlike her best friend (Eileen O'Higgins) who has a boyfriend (Peter Campion), or her older sister (Fiona Glascott) who has a decent job -- she accepts an offer arranged by her sibling and a priest (Jim Broadbent) across the pond who'd like to give her a fresh start at a new life in the titular borough of New York City.

She ends up living in boarding house run by an older woman (Julie Walters) and populated by an array of younger women there for different reasons, while getting a clerk job at a department store. Facing a serious bout of homesickness, she starts to see the grass as greener back home again.

And then she meets a young plumber (an engaging and charismatic Emory Cohen) who eventually ends up sweeping her off her feet. The two become a couple and things finally seem hunky dory for her in terms of accepting the color of her grass on her side of the fence. That is, until tragedy strikes, she returns home for an extended stay, and she meets and starts spending an increasing amount of time with another decent guy (Domhnall Gleeson) who then leaves her confused once more about what side and in what patch of grass she's supposed to exist.

That's about it for the plot, but Crowley paints such a lovely picture (thanks in part to the work of cinematographer Yves Belanger) of both worlds and the characters who reside in them that you don't mind going along for the ride. And that's especially true in terms of watching Ronan and her character throughout.

Her face is so compelling and her performance so good and sometimes haunting that I could simply stare at the young actress for the film's runtime of around 110 minutes and not really care about the story. But, as luck and hard work would have it, you do end up caring about young Eilis and what will ultimately come of her.

That said, I didn't completely buy into the third act conflict that arises upon her return home and her leading on the young man that there might be something between them. Not because something like that couldn't or wouldn't happen to anyone else, but it simply seems out of character for her, especially after her commitment to the other fella.

I realize there's little to no drama without such conflict, but that development felt a bit forced to me (perhaps it works better and is more believable in the novel). It's not a huge issue as, by the structuring of the plot, we're simply hoping for her to have happiness. And Ronan knocks the performance out of the park (while everyone else is good as well). She's likely to earn some love come award nomination time.

While there might not be much to the film in terms of any complicated plot, what's present works, and sometimes it's nice sit back and take in a small-scale drama where the grass is always green. "Brooklyn" is an engaging and winning pic and thus rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 21, 2015 / Posted November 25, 2015

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