Cert: 12A / 112 mins / Dir. John Crowley / Trailer
If I was directing a film which takes place (at least partially) in Brooklyn in 1952*1, I'd probably try and make sure the budget stretched to getting Hayley Atwell to pop in for a day, just for one scene, to be in-shot in a military and/or governmental type uniform. She wouldn't have to have a speaking line, but if she did it would be something completely innocuous; just to have her there in the shot so that people could say "Hah! Agent Carter! Unofficial MCU Canon!". It'd be un-noticeable enough not to distract the audience members who know nothing about Marvel, but generate extra publicity and sales for the film too, giving the story a broader context and sense of familiarity. And yet for some reason, I'm still waiting for Ian Hollywood to ring me and offer a directing job. His loss.
Now obviously, Brooklyn [the John Crowley film of Nick Hornby's screenplay adapted from Colm Tóibín's novel] isn't my usual cinematic fare*2, but I was sold on the promise of Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson, both of whom I love and both of whom are on typically fantastic form here. Along with Emory Cohen, they lead the story effortlessly; a story which, if I'm being honest, seems to have been mis-sold to the audience. The promo-press seems very much geared towards the 'torn between two loves' doomed romance type of thing, with the implied forlorn glances and wringing of hands. What Brooklyn actually is, is a film about finding home. A very delicate, introspective story of a young woman trying to find her place in the world which transcends age, gender and ethnicity. Anyone who's ever felt alone in a crowded place, even a familiar one, should be able to connect with the film, and with that in mind, it's really not just for the audience that Lionsgate are throwing the marketing at).
It's not all plain-sailing, of course. Reading the novel synopsis after watching the film (I won't link it here; there are spoilers in it, obviously), plot-points and entire themes seem to have been unceremoniously dumped overboard. Even at 112 minutes, the film sometimes feels like it's telling the story too quickly, as if an extra hour or so has been trimmed out here and there. Nick Hornby's actual screenplay leaves a lot to be desired too*3, with some clanging contrivances only rescued by the cast's performance. The secondary characters feel even more sketched in than they should (with the exception of Mrs Kehoe, expanded to perfection by Julie Walters), and any character that has to act in a slightly offish or underhanded manner is practically given a top-hat and a moustache to twirl.
But if it's undeniable charm you want, Brooklyn is where it's at. Thoroughly un-cynical of course*4, but in a film about home-sickness when you're not sure where home is, there's not much to be sneered at…
Just about, yeah.
A rental, then if you enjoy it then buy it when it's about a fiver.
Brooklyn is a film which the principle-cast can happily have at the top of their CVs.
It does, but there's room for improvement ;)
Brooklyn stars ol' General Hux himself, Domhnall Gleeson.
*1 Not that this is captioned, mentioned or otherwise communicated to the audience until half way through the film when someone dies and we see "3rd July 1952" on their gravestone. And it seems a small point to bring up, I know, but it's symptomatic of the general approach to storytelling in Brooklyn.
*2 Especially in 2015 when I've been actively avoiding certain films which Clearly Aren't For Me™.
*3 Throughout the entire first-act, Ronan's Eilis wears green. This is because she's very naive, do you see? 'Green' is a slang term for naive. This is visual film-making in its purest form. DO YOU SEE?
*4 Okay, with the exception of Eva Birthistle shouting "Fuck off! …FUCK… OFF!" through a cabin door on a tatty cruise-liner, which did have me guffawing.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.