2015 / Best Actress / Best Picture

Film #525: Brooklyn (2015)

So it’s been a while since we last met and whilst I will soon return to looking at the films that were nominated in the Best Director Category, but not in Best Picture, it’s that time of year to evaluate the eight films deemed worthy enough to be considered for the big prize this year. We kick off this year’s list with a rather traditional film from director John Crowley in the form of the charming Irish-American drama Brooklyn.

Adapted by Nick Hornby from the book by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn focuses on small town Irish girl Ellis Lacey who decides to leave her mundane existence behind and journey to New York. One of the elements of the film I enjoyed was the way in which the female characters were portrayed as fairly strong-willed and in some ways more level-headed than their male counterparts. Although Ellis’ journey doesn’t start out particularly well, this is due to her naievty rather than her gender and it’s a fellow female traveller who shows her how to behave like an American. Similarly engrossing are the scenes in which Ellis interacts with the other female lodgers and the boarding house run by the eccentric Mrs Kehoe. Despite the girls’ teasing of one another it’s clear that there is a bond between them and I felt the film shone when showcasing this makeshift family unit. One element of Brooklyn that I’m still a little dubious about is the fact that Ellis isn’t truly happen until she finds a man in the form of Italian plumber Tony. However Ellis’ relationship with Tony sees her in the position of power and it’s his friendship that sees her settle into the city as well as transition from her job at a department store to a book-keeping course at night school. The film’s final act sees Ellis whisked home after a family tragedy and after experiencing the bright lights of New York realises that maybe her heart does lie back in her small town. One one hand seeing Ellis wrestle with her two different lives was engrossing, especially because I felt we’d grown with the character up to this point, however I personally felt like I knew exactly where the film was going. To that end I was a little bit disappointed with the saccharine ending that Brooklyn had especially because a lot of what had come before was refreshingly different

Even though it wasn’t one of the films that was rumoured to be in contention for the Best Picture prize, I’m not surprised that Brooklyn was nominated in the main category. For one thing the 1950s setting would appeal to a lot of the older academy members who I’m sure were charmed by the recreation of New York in that era. I would go as far to say that Irene O’Brian and Robert Parle’s production design and Odile Dicks-Mireaux’s costume design were some of Brooklyn’s strongest elements and I feel that both deserved to be nominated in their respective categories. One person who was deservedly nominated for his role in the film was Nick Hornby who managed to bring the character of Ellis to life perfectly. I feel that Hornby’s partly responsible for the emotional investment I developed for the character over time and he was also responsible for the film’s witty dialogue that put it ahead of a lot of worthy period dramas that were released last year. Whilst Hornby’s characterisation was strong I wasn’t taken with the film’s story from beginning to end and felt it lost its way a bit when Ellis returned to Ireland. Even though I still enjoyed the character’s progression, these scenes were a little weak and that was partly to do with the fact that I had little interest in any of the other characters that populated Ellis’ small town. While I do think Hornby is deserving of his nomination, I don’t think he’ll win the Adapted Screenplay Award and Brooklyn’s best hope of taking home any trophies lies in the hands of the film’s lead actress Saoirse Ronan. In my eyes it’s Ronan’s staggeringly brilliant performance that has made the film as popular as it is and I feel that it’s a star-making turn from a young actress who has been brilliant in almost everything she’s been in since Atonement. Here Ronan is able to convey Ellis’ mixed emotions throughout the film without uttering a word of dialogue and I found her physical presence to be especially compelling. Ronan deserves to be awarded primarily because she was on screen in almost every scene and that’s no mean feat for any actor or actress.

Overall, I would say that Brooklyn is a solid period drama piece that is bolstered by strong characterisation, a witty script and a fine central performance. However I wouldn’t say I was particularly blown away by a film that I felt lost a bit of steam by the time it got to its conclusion. That being said I think that Saoirse Ronan deserves every award going and I think she’s definitely in line for a BAFTA win if not an Oscar win as well.

Next Time I’ll be evaluating the Oscar-winning potential of Ridley Scott’s latest effort The Martian which, according to the Golden Globes, is the Best Comedy or Musical film that was released last year.


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