BFI #LFF 2015: BROOKLYN Film Review


Intimate, romantic and visually stunning, BROOKLYN is a sure-fire contender for this year’s Academy Awards

John Crowley’s superb adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel BROOKLYN certainly caused a stir at the BFI London Film Festival when it made its gala premiere on 12 October and rightly so.

BROOKLYN tells the story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young girl who departs from her home in Ireland for the shores of New York City. Young, scared and alone, Eilis initially yearns for the comfort of her mother’s (Jane Brennan) home but her homesickness quickly diminishes when charismatic Italian plumber Tony (Emory Cohen) sweeps her off her feet. But Eilis’ new vivacity is soon disrupted when tragedy calls her home, forcing young Ellis to choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

Intimate, romantic and visually stunning, BROOKLYN is a simple girl meets boy story that is handsomely shot and beautifully constructed. Director John Crowley, in partnership with screenwriter Nick Hornby, do a fantastic job of adapting Tóibín’s novel for screen, constructing beautiful and sensitive love story full of real-life emotion.

In terms of looks and period recreation, BROOKLYN is certainly a visual feast. Yves Bélanger’s cinematography is stunning, with its soft palate and gentle yellow hue capturing the splendour of Ireland and the vibrancy of New York City. François Séguin’s production design and Odile Dicks-Mireaux’s costume design elevates the film to a new level, allowing the actors to fully engage with their characters and the time. Add to this a beautiful score by Michael Brook and superb cast performances by Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters and you’re onto a winner.


The film is helmed with a strong performance by Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey. Ronan’s delicate and sincere portrayal is vivaciously real, as she battles with homesickness and the need to escape the meager opportunities her town has to offer in the 1950s. Already a one-time Oscar nominee (as Briony Tallis in ANTONMENT), Ronan reaffirms her talent in BROOKLYN in what is arguably the best performance of her career.

Emory Cohen shows his sensitive side as charismatic Italian plumber Tony, in an equally measured, tantalising performance to his co-star. Domhnall Gleeson’s is equally good as the reserved yet sensitive Jim Farrell, in a role that doesn’t call for many words or emotions.

Jim Broadbent also makes an appearance as the family priest who gets Eilis her job, as does Julie Walters as the stern yet lovable Mrs. Kehoe who adds comic relief to the otherwise serious drama.

My only criticism with BROOKLYN is that the case for Eilis to stay in Ireland isn’t as strong as the case for her to return to her new life in New York. Part of this is down to Cohen’s performance as Tony which is so good that it makes it difficult to root for Gleeson’s character Jim. It is also in part down to Hornby, who makes less of a compelling case for Ireland, thereby making Eilis’ dilemma less difficult than it appears.

That said, there is plenty to love about BROOKLYN and Crowley does a fantastic job of demonstrating that you don’t need excessive twists or special effects to tell a great story.

All in all, BROOKLYN is a charming tale of love and family and a sure-fire contender for this year’s BAFTA and Academy Awards.

4 out of 5 stars

BROOKLYN made its UK gala premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on 12 October 2015 is released in the UK on 6 November 2015.