The BBC is one of the finest institutions in the world. Every year it produces television, film and radio content of the highest quality to be rivaled as the best in the world. Just like any great media empire the BBC is also pretty great at pumping out garbage but somewhere along the fence of these two squabbling neighbours straddles the boring belters. These are the shows and the films that are of the highest quality, yet concern the most dreary of topics. Period pieces, genealogy documentaries and inoffensive murder mysteries (except for the racist ones), the kind of stories that my mother would enjoy. As a mid-twenties, nerdy, contemporary member of society I understand that I am far from the target audience of these kind of things and it may not be my place to criticise them but since I was asked to review Brooklyn by Novastream it’s also my place to criticise these kinds of stories.
Eilis Lacey is an Irishwoman living in Brooklyn and not the kind of Irish person in America that clings to their roots as if being related to a bunch of Irish people a hundred years ago defines their personality and excuses them from certain behaviour but a true Irishwoman born and bred. After a death in the family Eilis returns to Enniscorthy in The Emerald Isle and is thrust into the life she would have had if she were never to have traveled to America. Boys, jobs and mothers get in the way and Eilis must decide whether she wishes to build a new life for herself in her old home or return to her old life in her new home of America.
Honestly I really don’t see what all the fuss is about, Brooklyn could be any of the period pieces on television at the moment. Shy girl gets a new job, meets a boy, falls in love, meets another boy, has to choose all while wearing a dress from the 1950s. Nothing of any importance really happens in the first hour of the movie and nothing important whatsoever happens in the first half hour. The plot is 100% predictable and apart from the very last two minutes nothing new or exciting really happens. Much like Room, one could be forgiven for confusing Brooklyn with a tele-movie slated to air on a raining Sunday afternoon.
Brooklyn is the kind of film that you can see would have been a wonderful book but never really needed to be adapted to the big screen. It also suffers from the common soap opera affliction of “forced drama”. Literally all of the film’s drama could have been avoided if the characters just admitted their feelings. “I don’t really feel very well.”, “I don’t want to go out with that boy.”, “I don’t want to live in Ireland anymore.”, Fin! There was also a lot of talk about boys which while suitable for the time period I suppose, got quite annoying towards the start, middle and the end.
Acting wise, everyone played a fine role. The only grand performance comes from the lead Saoirse Ronan, the only actor with a more Irish name than any of the film’s characters. To begin with Saoirse plays your regular shy girl in a brand new world but over the course of the film her confidence begins to creep in and it took me almost the whole film to realise how much she had changed. The rest of the cast is filled with a bunch of impressive names such as Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Emory Cohen and Eva Birthistle that all do a great job that can never quite match that of Ronan. If there is one honorable mention it must go out to James DiGiacomo who plays Frankie, the younger brother of Tony (Emory Cohen) and is the most fun character throughout the entire movie.
All the direction and music flew by without any notice on my part which must mean something, something that I am going to leave up to yourself to decide. I am always impressed by the set design in period pieces, especially those set in large cities. Where do they get all of those old cars? How do they know which buildings were around in the 50s? Who studies all of the fashion and styles of the 50s and keeps up with it all? It just all looks so exhausting and with the relatively small budget of $10 million, Brooklyn should really be winning the Best Production Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscars. Well if it was really up to me, Mad Max and Kingsman would win them all but to be fair to Brooklyn‘s production team, they did a fantastic job.
Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay may not be the awards Brooklyn deserves and I would even argue over Best Actress but for anyone interested in love stories set around 1950s New York this is the film for you. Nothing happens, the acting is quite good and you will not be offended by any of the dialogue at any point in the film. That’s exactly what a BBC period piece sets out to do and that’s exactly what Brooklyn manages. Well there are maybe two or three “f*cks” in there but considering its an Irish film you can pretty much head cannon those into “fecks”. As for the geeky twenty-somethings glued to their computer screens, maybe stay clear of this one and go back to Mad Max or Kingsman.