The lovely Brooklyn follows Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish woman who moves to Brooklyn in the early 1950s. The story is simple but familiar: painful homesickness gradually gives way to love and activity. She becomes calmer, more confident, and increasingly fashionable. Then tragedy strikes her family in Ireland, shaking Eilis’s tentative sense of home.
Based on a book by Colm Tóibín, John Crowley’s film advances at a slow, old-fashioned pace. Michael Brook’s beautiful soundtrack, comprised mostly of strings, underlines some of the movie’s most memorable moments. At one point, Eilis steps into a snowy evening wearing all red. Most moving is the scene when Eilis and a host of other immigrants say goodbye to Ireland from their ship. Instead of an exuberant parting with promises of America, friends and family exchange heartbroken and silent farewells.
Ronan, lovingly filmed by Yves Bélanger, plays Eilis as a quiet girl with a wry sense of humor who is finding her own way. Emory Cohen portrays her lovestruck suitor Tony with tenderness. This is a love story (possibly two) as well as a goodbye story, a sweet romance and as a tribute to both Ireland and America.
In spite of a few emotional complications and a mean-spirited shopkeeper, the movie lacks edge. It is perhaps too straightforward, and it underplays the agony of bereavement. Still, the film is exactly what it intends to be: a gentle contemplation on homesickness. Its vivid lighting, exquisite costumes, and Ronan’s translucent performance make this a poignant story about how moving forward always means leaving something behind.