Top Ten Movies of 2015 — Number Three

3 brooklyn

Based on Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name, Brooklyn demonstrates the reservoirs of emotional power that can be tapped by telling a quietly compelling story unadorned by pushy narrative tricks, by letting the particulars of wisely conceived drama stand as the prevailing voice of the film. Set in the nineteen-fifties, it tells the story of a young immigrant named Eilis (Saoirse Ronan). She settles into an existence of minor yet impactful unease after journeying from Ireland to find her place in the title borough. The relatively modest scale of her challenges serves to settle the film into an endearingly realistic space while also investing it with a strong sense of universality. By zeroing in on the specifics of Eilis’s experience, the film manages to elegantly touch upon the commonly recurring moments of shifting into adulthood: homesickness, personal uncertainty, self-discovery, and the gradual defining of personal needs and goals. Director John Crowley constructs the film with delicate, attentive care, allowing the relationships time to develop and the performers the space to find nuance in their roles. Ronan is marvelous, achieving the crucial but strangely underrated feat of taking her character through a definite evolution while artfully signaling that she is fundamentally the same person. Her work is hardly a singular showcase within the film, though, as supporting roles, even the tiniest, are uniformly met with warmly insightful acting, led by the prickly judgment of Julie Walters’s boarding house busybody and the boyish tenderness of Emory Cohen’s smitten suitor. The pure craft of Nick Hornby’s screenplay bolsters his reputation as an ace of adaptation, shaping the story perfectly for the screen while maintaining the hearty soul that the probing inner life of a novel provides. For some, I suspect Brooklyn looks a little stodgy, especially when held up against more dynamic or fiercely artistic modern works. To me, it looks like classic moviemaking done exquisitely right.

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