Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn is the city that Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) emigrates to as there isn't much opportunity for her left in her hometown. Leaving her beloved sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) and mother (Jane Brennan) behind, she struggles with homesickness in Brooklyn until she meets Anthony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), an Italian American man with whom she begins a romance. However, tragedy strikes at home and Eilis is left with her heart divided between her twin homes and loves.
What works quite well with Brooklyn is that Eilis' struggles are realistic and believable and honestly do speak to the major struggles that many immigrants go through as most always leave a part of themselves in the land that they come from. The homesickness and, should opportunity arise, the possibility of returning are always conflicts, especially once you start to put down roots in your new home. It is a little predictable that romance is, more than anything else, representative of Eilis's newfound attachment to Brooklyn and the possibility of romance with Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) a call back to Ireland, but I suppose it's what you get with a romance story. I just wish the relational aspect of the romance were a little more focused on as during the final act, because both romances were rather simply hewn together, Eilis's internal distress at having to choose both home and lover isn't quite as compelling. But if Brooklyn had further tied Eilis down in Brooklyn to her housemates, her work, or her community, or even just given hers and Tony's tale more depth, I think her conflict would have been even more compelling.
But that slight underdevelopment is really the only major weakness. Sure there are some other predictable elements, but the single character perspective really helps keep Brooklyn focused and it feels pretty tight as a result. And Saoirse Ronan's nuanced performance as the naive-but-growing Eilis is critical in selling the story, which could otherwise be overly sentimental or blunt. Director John Crowley smartly keeps the visual construction of Brooklyn simple and mostly focused on Ronan, although there is something about the way the scenes set in Brooklyn were shot that gives the film a distinctly European vision of the United States, rather than a native energy, which I guess is appropriate given that it is is an Irish-British-Canadian co-production.
I won't say Brooklyn is really doing anything new; the immigrant story and the Irish immigrant story in particular have been well and not-so-well told many times over the decades. However, Brooklyn does manage to win over by keeping the perspective focused on its main character and her particular journey and conflict as her heart is left halfway between her old world and her new and Ronan's performance sells it well. As such, I think Brooklyn is a fine entry into this particular sub-genre of immigrant films and their crossing with romance dramas. 8/10