Day 4 Review – TCFF 2015 Gala Screening: Brooklyn


Three of my most highly-anticipated films at TCFF premiered on Saturday. Two of them are studio features, Youth & Brooklyn and one is a small indie drama The Dust Storm, which I have reviewed here along with my interview w/ one of the director and cast members.

It was quite a whirlwind day starting with the Future of Film panel at 1pm with Rob Nelson from National Society of Film Critics, Ryland Aldrich from and Emma Griffiths, Emma Griffiths PR. It’s great getting insights from film experts on the changing landscape of film promotion/distribution and various film trends. I also got to meet director Samuel Hathaway before his red carpet (check out my interview w/ him on The Old, Old Story), as well as David Spaltro whom I met a couple of years ago at TCFF. Great to see him back in town for his psychological horror film In The Dark (review & interview post coming next week!)

So here’s one of the reviews from Day 4:




I’ve been waiting to see this film since it premiered at Sundance and so imagine how thrilled I was when I saw it on TCFF lineup!! I’ve been a fan of Irish thespian Saoirse Ronan since Atonement, Hanna and How I Live Now, which also premiered at TCFF two years ago. Suffice to say her casting was the main draw for me to see this and she did NOT disappoint.

As an immigrant myself, naturally the story of a young Irish immigrant moving to the United States resonated with me. Of course our circumstances are very different, but I identify with the feeling of homesickness and the challenges of navigating a whole new environment. Brooklyn is set in the 1950s. It opens with Eilis Lacey, the youngest of two Irish sisters living in a small town in County Wexford, Ireland. She’s offered a chance to move to New York City by a priest, for a chance of a new life. Her older sister Rose strongly supports that idea, even if that means she’d have to be the only one looking after their mother.


The journey on the boat is quite excruciating for Eilis, but somewhere along the way she always ended up finding a friend to help her through it. The same way when she arrived in Brooklyn to stay in a Mrs. Kehoe’s Catholic boarding house along with four other girls. I LOVE Julie Walters here, she’s definitely the comic relief with her comments like ‘no talking about the Lord’s complexion at dinner!’ or ‘giddyness is the eighth deadly sins!’ She’s strict but not without a sense of humor. The always reliable Jim Broadbent provides an excellent supporting turn as the compassionate priest Father Flood who arranged for Eilis’ immigration.

Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It will make you feel wretched, then will move on to somebody else…

I love the quote above from Father Flood to Eilis, and sure enough, soon Eilis’ able to overcome her homesickness as soon as she finds romance with an Italian boy Tony (Emory Cohen) who’s handsome and effortlessly charming. There’s a James Dean-esque vibe in his performance and perhaps that’s intentional. Soon he invites Eilis home to meet his very Italian family. I love the cultural aspects of the film, showcasing the different lives of American immigrants from different countries. There are amusing scenes such as when Eilis’ fellow boarding house friends teach her how NOT to splash spaghetti all over her blouse during dinner, and Iarla O’Lionaird as Tony’s smart-aleck-y 8-year-old brother Frankie was definitely a scene stealer!


Life doesn’t always go according to plan however, and Eilis’ life changed abruptly that compels her to return back to Ireland. Life if full of tough choices, and that’s what happens with Eilis when she finds herself back in her home town. Suddenly there’s a decent life waiting for her in Ireland that she didn’t find before she moved to Brooklyn. A tentative romance also develops with a friend from her high school Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) that complicates matters. There’s nothing like two romantic prospects on both sides of the Atlantic that would get any girl torn, but there’s also more to it than that.

I love how the seemingly-simple story of an immigrant girl can be so deeply poignant and moving. I remember liking John Crowley‘s British indie Boy A with Andrew Garfield, and he’s certainly has a way for capturing the anguish and torment of young people. The same with screenwriter Nick Hornby who penned About A Boy in crafting a heartfelt character-driven piece.

It’s definitely Saoirse Ronan‘s best work amongst her already illustrious career. At twenty, she’s the right age to portray Eilis, and she infused such gravitas into her role. She’s able to convey internal battle within her with just her eyes or a subtle smile, as there’s a great deal of economy of dialog in this film but everything has a purpose. Visually, the set design of 50s Brooklyn and Ireland are believable, captured beautifully by cinematographer Yves Bélanger. But to me, it’s the story that I will remember most of all. Lest Hollywood forget, well-written story is the greatest special effects of all.


Have you seen BROOKLYN? Well, what did you think?

38 thoughts on “Day 4 Review – TCFF 2015 Gala Screening: Brooklyn

  1. Excellent review Ruth –

    Ruth and I are in strong agreement about this film, We both really liked what we saw. And why not? If Saoirse Ronan can capture the hearts of men on both sides of the Atlantic, why not all of us who attended a screening at the TCFF. There’s definitely an Oscar buzz in the air about her performance. And don’t be shocked to hear that Julie Waters and JIm Broadbent are being considered as well.

    1. Thanks Mike! Ahah yeah, Saoirse is quite an actress, beautiful but w/ substance. I hope she gets another nomination here, she’s really excellent and both Broadbent & Walters are great as well.

  2. Glad you had such a good day, Ruth. I read and loved the book and thought the movie might be even better!! (LOVE Waters and Broadbent, two of my faves).

    1. Hello Jay! It’s been exhausting, living on adrenaline rush w/ all kinds of deadlines 🙂 But yeah it’s been great watching so many good movies. You will love both of those actors, esp Walters! But the star was truly Saoirse!

  3. Tom

    Love that ending line. Good stories/dialogue are indeed the *best* special effects. Love how you put that Ruth. I’ve heard mixed things about Brooklyn thus far, but I remain optimistic it will be a good one. Ronan has really impressed me in the few things I’ve seen her in (I think the most recent being Grand Budapest Hotel). GAH — there are so many movies/film festival posts I’m reading about right now I’m getting green with envy. 😉

    1. Hi ya Tom! Hey thanks, it just came to me as I wrote it and I thought well, it’s just perfect for this film. It’s rather conventional on the outset, but there’s deeper meaning to the story. Ronan is so excellent and rather underrated IMHO, I think Hollywood prefers the flashier type of actress like Jennifer Lawrence than the quiet, introspective ones like Saoirse.

    1. Hey Jordan! I hope you give Brooklyn a shot. It’s got some romance elements but not at all corny. It’s more about her journey as an immigrant.

      Well, my review of YOUTH should be up shortly and I totally get what you’re saying! 😉

          1. I really liked her in Grand Budapest but haven’t seen her in anything else. I think I’ll check this one out at the festival 😀 Stepping outside the sort of stuff I normally watch 😉

    1. Saoirse is excellent! You haven’t seen her in Atonement? She’s still so young then but showed such skills already. I bet you’d love that film Cindy!

  4. Yeah, this looks like a simple, well-told story, and I can’t wait to see it. Fingers crossed that Saoirse Ronan gets another Oscar nom! 🙂

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  6. Oh lovely review! I’m so looking forward to this, I didn’t know Jim Broadbent is in this, it’s been a while since I saw him in anything

    1. Hi Margaret! Yes Jim Broadbent is in this and he’s great as always. But I LOVE Saoirse Ronan, I REALLY hope she gets nominated for this. She is a hundred times better actress than Hollywood’s fave J-Law!

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  11. Saoirse Ronan is so damn good in this. She deserves all the attention she is getting for it. I liked this movie, but I wasn’t in love with it. This may be in part that I had a horrible movie watching experience with it, I have never heard so many damn people talking through a movie. But anyways yes the cinematography was equally stunning. I also really liked Gleeson and enjoyed seeing him on screen with Ronan, more than the other guy.

    1. Hello dahling! I LOVE Saoirse from all the things I’ve seen her in, but this is perhaps her most mature role to date where she gets to display her amazing talent. I hear ya about not loving this film but I really adore the simplicity of the story and the love story between her and Emory Cohen were beautifully-done. You like the one w/ Gleeson more? Hmmm interesting, I thought the one in Brooklyn has such a swoony quality whilst the Ireland one is a bit more tentative.

      1. I had a feeling you would love this movie. I know weird right we all like different things. I think it’s because I like Gleeson as an actor, so I was drawn to his side. I love her Irish accent she’s so damn cute. 🙂

        1. I love Gleeson too and I’ve never seen this Emory guy before but he’s just so sweet in this film. I think that’s how his character’s written though. But I LOVE Saoirse, yes her accent is cute indeed. I also love Julie Walters who’s just hilarious!

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