An ocean apart
In Brooklyn, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) comes of age just in time to find herself on the horns of a remarkable dilemma. No sooner has she emigrated from Ireland to the U.S. and started a new life of her own there than she’s called back to Ireland (for the funeral of an older sister who has died young) and begins discovering an alternative “new life” where there was none before.
Her dilemma is magnified by the fact of having a very attractive suitor in both places—a wildly devoted working-class Italian American named Tony (Emory Cohen) in Brooklyn and a gentlemanly middle-class lad named Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) in Ireland. But romance is just one aspect in the drama of cultural dynamics that must play out in her emerging sense of selfhood.
Nick Hornby, a novelist and screenwriter who also excels in adapting other writers’ books (An Education, Wild), has adapted Colm Tóibín’s novel and fashioned a comedy/drama that scores points as a coming-of-age tale, as a culture-clash sketch, and as a richly contextualized love story. And director John Crowley presents it all with brisk sensitivity.
There’s also a fine, deep supporting cast. Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters are the veteran presences, but Crowley and cinematographer Yves Bélanger render the entire cast as a gallery of beguiling everyday faces.