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Family Movie Review: Brooklyn (PG-13)

Brooklyn ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13       Length: 111 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. This film about a young Irish woman immigrating to the United States includes some language; some gross-out stuff (vomiting, having to go to the bathroom in a bucket on a ship); the death of a character; and a love triangle, including some kissing and a sex scene.

‘Brooklyn’ is the kind of movie you’ll see and then want to tell everyone about. The movie’s fantastic performances and empathetic, relatable narrative about growing up and growing into who you choose to be are excellent and unforgettable.

By Roxana Hadadi

Sometimes, as clichéd as it sounds, a movie just blows you away. “Brooklyn” is that movie, with a quietly powerful performance from star Saoirse Ronan, a thoughtful exploration on identity and becoming, and a narrative that doesn’t force cruelty or shock on the parts of the characters or the audience. You’ll figure life out as it goes along, says the movie, and it’s the kind of gentle support we all need sometimes. Whatever you do this weekend or next during the Thanksgiving holiday, you should see “Brooklyn.”

In the film, Irish young woman Eilis (Saoirse Ronan, of “The Host”) is just trying to figure out who she is. It’s the early 20th century, and Eilis is living a normal but obviously unfulfilling life: Her mother is distant, her employer is petty, the boys in her town aren’t worth dating, there are no other job prospects. But when her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) arranges for Eilis to move to America, everything changes – every opportunity is now open to her. Or so Eilis thinks, even as she grieves leaving behind Rose and considers how few possessions she really has (they all fit into tiny suitcase, with room to spare). America has to be different, right?

Well, yes, but also no. Just as Eilis’s days in Ireland were dictated by routine – work at the store, eat meals with her sister and mother, go to Mass, go to bed and do it all again the next day – so are her days in Brooklyn, where she movies into a boardinghouse populated with other young Irish women. She works at a department store, selling fancy accessories to women who are richer than she can imagine; she commutes daily; she eats meals with her housemates. It’s all a variation on the same routine, isn’t it? And why does that routine being in America intrinsically make it better than what it was in Ireland? Her homesickness, and the averageness of it all, seem to be sapping Eilis dry.

Until she meets someone: Tony (Emory Cohen), a young Italian plumber who can’t keep his eyes off her. Swiftly for him and slowly for her, feelings start to develop, and Eilis begins to excel: at bookkeeping classes she’s taking at a local college, at her job, in her friendships with her housemates. Is this love? Is this life? Was this the promise of America?

But not everything perfect lasts, of course, and when tragedy calls Eilis back home to Ireland is when the question of “Brooklyn” snaps into focus. How do we begin to build a life? How do we become who we want to be? These are questions that seem weighty, but are based on the day-to-day choices we make, on the small decisions we enact, on the opportunities we pursue and the ones we leave behind. “Brooklyn” never puts things so baldly, but that journey of being is what the film is exploring, and it does so excellently and empathetically.

The key here is Ronan, who gives a treasure of a performance. Eilis isn’t an emotive person, but watch Ronan for a few minutes onscreen and you’ll see the layers of feeling playing out on her face, her mind working as she considers the situation at hand, how she carries herself and how she treats others. If the eyes are the window to the soul, Ronan is on full display here, and you can’t help but love her, feel for her, understand everything she’s going through and how it relates to everything you’re going through. Her performance is transcendent.

And it’s not like the rest of the film is shabby, either – Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson (of “Unbroken”), who pops up later in the film as a young man from Eilis’s past, are both steady, charming, lovable, and you can easily see how Eilis could build a life with either of them. But it’s our choices that define us, and “Brooklyn” makes that clear. It’s a beautiful message for a beautiful film.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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