Brooklyn Review: Romance the Old-Fashioned Way

Brooklyn takes a very lived-in approach to its storytelling. If you’re looking for a film that’s going to break new ground in the genres it passes through, look elsewhere. But it passes through them well enough that what it lacks in ambition is made up for by strong values, an infectious love story, and a pinch of nostalgia for a world long gone.

The film follows Eilis (a quietly affecting Saoirse Ronan) as she migrates from her small hometown in Ireland to Brooklyn in the early 1950s. She moves into a boarding house full of other young Irish women, gets a job working at a jewelry store, and attends the weekly dances at her Irish church. She fancies none of these things it seems until she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a local Italian man who loves the Dodgers and can’t help but smile when he’s around Eilis. Brooklyn‘s best scenes are as this romance takes off. Their love is a perfect hybrid of sexy and traditional, staying true to the film’s period while still feeling timeless and inherently necessary for both of their existence.

But as the story goes, Eilis is brought back to her small town in Ireland for a long chunk of the movie. Without that electric chemistry, Brooklyn quickly loses the momentum it was building. Eilis’ story wraps up in a way that feels natural and rewarding, but it takes the scenic route to get there. Not that Brooklyn was the fastest of films, but taking an already slow pace and slowing it down ever further after so much of the runtime has already passed is damaging.

At least the film always looks good. The sets, costumes, and locations (Brooklynites, she lives in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights that’s bound to make you jealous. The Irish countryside is nice too…) are all stunning and authentic.

Overall, Brooklyn manages to work despite its pacing issues. It’s not the revolutionary work we come to expect this time of year, but it’s serviceable and will make you feel warm towards love and the wild places it’ll take you. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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