Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn (2010) is a lovely novel. About Eilis, a 1950s Irish girl who moves to America but feels the pull of her homeland, it offers gently powerful insights about the complexity of the immigration experience. Restrained and wonderfully quiet, this is just the sort of novel that doesn’t translate well to the big screen. Yet “Brooklyn,” written by bad-boy author Nick Hornby and directed by John Crowley, is an equally lovely film, one that captures all the nuance of its antecedent without resorting to the clichés that can doom period adaptations. There’s not even a voiceover.
Saoirse Ronan stars, and it’s her best performance to date, which is really saying something. Since the beginning of her career, the twenty-one-year-old Irish actress has summoned a clear-eyed gravity that has worked equally well in bad-ass YA sagas (“Hanna,” “How We Live Now”) as in Oscar-baiting epics (“Atonement,” “The Lovely Bones”). Eilis is one of her first grown-up roles, and rather than succumbing to the self-consciousness that typically afflicts former child actors, she channels her new adulthood – sometimes peacocky, sometimes clumsy – as if it’s just another tool of her corporeal instrument. Such physicality is handy in this exceptionally nonverbal story, in which most people say the opposite of what they are feeling, if they say anything at all. (Not for nothing did Freud declare the Irish the only people impervious to psychoanalysis.) Continue Reading →