December 6, 2015 at 1:32 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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It would be hard to find anything bad to say about this well-crafted period piece. Saoirse Ronan (“Hanna,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) plays Ellis, a young woman who leaves Ireland for New York in the mid-1950s. Ellis struggles with homesickness but is just beginning to fit in when a tragedy forces her to return home. She then finds herself torn between the two worlds. That description (which could be right off of a DVD case) makes the film sound both worse and better than it actually is. It is not nearly so heavy-handed and cliche; nor is it particularly exciting. The film is gorgeous, with both Brooklyn and Ellis’s small Irish village beautifully rendered. Clothing, cars, telephones, the china they eat off of, the things they say all feel very real. Likewise, all of the characters are rich and believable. Even small background characters have a depth to them that is unusual in most films. It also has a gently humor to it, never more so than around various dinner tables as these characters banter in a good-natured way. Nick Hornby (“About a Boy,” “High Fidelity”) developed the screenplay from a popular Irish novel. Both he and director John Crowley (“Boy A”) clearly love these characters, most of them strong women. At the center, Ronan shines as Ellis. She is able to capture Ellis’s slow transformation into a strong, more self-assured young woman. The changes are not big ones (nothing in this film is) and they take a deft hand to portray well. This is a simple story about love in many forms: the binding love of family, the supportive love of friends, compassion toward strangers and, most of all, romance. It explores Ellis’s relationship with each of these without ever sensationalizing or trivializing. All of it feels real. In fact, everything in this story feels real but, just like in most real lives, only small things happen. This is a simple, undramatic story of a young woman’s love of two places. It’s touching and sweet but not earth shattering. There are no revelations here, just unadorned truths.

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