If it’s been years since you’ve gone to the movies, Brooklyn is a great reason to go back.
I get why you don’t go any more. My own experience is that most of the marquee-grabbing movies today accost me with some, if not all, of the following affronts: extreme characters, breakneck plot shifts, violent visual upheavals, and eardrum-splitting surround sound, all of which seriously mess with my ability to suspend my disbelief.
Brooklyn, on the other hand, is an oasis of beautiful visual craft and storytelling I had forgotten was even possible in a movie.
Based on the novel Brooklyn by Irish novelist, Colm Tóibín, it’s a quiet movie of immense moments, of the ordinary human experience of leaving home, the loss of “normal,” and finding your way forward through discovering that you can’t go back.
In hindsight, I wish I had understood the moments were meant to be savored, each in its turn like a fine gourmet chocolate. It made me aware that I’ve held a different orientation to movies recently, one that is anchored in a plot-screaming headspace of “what will happen next?” rather than “what’s happening now?”
Brooklyn, on the other hand, holds you in the spell of the first blush of new love or a brilliant Irish acapella tenor giving voice to a homesickness so palpable you’ll have tears streaming down your face even if you aren’t weeping.
Despite being advertised as “a rich period drama [early ’50s] that tugs at the heartstrings,” (Wikipedia), Brooklyn is deftly punctuated with snippets of ordinary human hilarity.
Anyone who has ever shamed themselves with inappropriate–yet entirely uncontrollable–explosive giggles in somber surroundings will resonate warmly with the scene at the dining table of the rooming house as the exasperated matron tries, by sheer force of will, to stifle the giddiness of two flighty roomers. Similarly, eight-year old punk Frankie’s outrageous declaration that “We don’t like Irish people!” is sure to tickle self-aware social instigators who have ever been lead from the dining table by their ear.
Part of the fun is found in the dialogue itself. It’s replete with the quick Irish accent and wit that is a delight to both the ear and the mind, and Irish actress Saoirse Ronan as “Eilis” and her fellow actors deliver it all superbly.
In fact, the acting is so universally compelling, it felt to me that there were no “extras” in Brooklyn. It is as though every human on screen is a fine actor in their own right, each with their own fully fledged story to tell. Even if it was merely a wave goodbye from the deck of a ship, or the way an old gnarled hand held a soup spoon at the charity Christmas dinner in the basement of the church, I believed.
I won’t comment on set, costume, music, direction, etc., because once I was five minutes in, they were all invisible to me. The potent amalgam caught up with me 107 minutes later as I left the theater with a beautiful new story lodged in my heart and the fervent intention to watch it again, this time moment by moment.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn, the book, is all queued up on my Kindle for some cozy holiday reading. I have a feeling this may be one of those rare circumstances where the book will be better for having lived the movie. I’ll let you know in an update here when I’m done.