365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Brooklyn (2015)

Hands down, the best romance of 2015 is John Crowley's (Intermission, Boy A) terrific Brooklyn. Note that I did not say that this is the most romantic movie of the year, but rather the best romance. This movie features no wining and/or dining. There are not the passionate, hot and heavy, sometimes stir a little in your seat scenes that you might be used to in movies like Titanic, The Notebook, Pretty Woman, Before Sunrise, (500) Days of Summer, Dirty Dancing, or Ghost. This isn't R-rated. It isn't PG-rated. It is very appropriately rated as a PG-13 movie. It's the closest thing that well resemble the process of two people meeting each other by chance, getting to know each other first casually and then on a much deeper level before falling into a very deep and meaningful love that is both believable and beautiful. I did not know this was a love story going into the film. My mantra this year and sort of been to know as little about a movie as possible going into it. That doesn't mean I'll see just anything. I do have to see first that the movie is getting positive reviews. But if it does have decent reviews and it does have Oscar buzz, I'll make every effort to go see it. Brookyn was a movie that was both the easiest film in the world to understand, but at the same time almost impossible to truly comprehend. And in a word, that is love.

There are still A LOT of great movies that have yet to be released in 2015. It's been an awesome year so I'm tentative to declare that a movie will be in my end of year top 10 list. But as much hope as I have for movies like Joy, Carol, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Danish Girl, In the Heart of the Sea, and others, I think at least a couple of these will fizzle. I'm not ready to guarantee it, but I do think that Brooklyn will find a way to stick on my top 10 list when everything is set and done. The things it did well, it did great. I had very few problems with this film and those that I did, I am willing to mostly overlook because of how excellent the overall product was. It was a very, very engrossing movie an, for as simple the plot was, it kind of had you on pins and needles wondering how it would end. With 10-15 minutes left to go, the film could have ended a variety of different ways. By that point, it had the ability to leave you happy, angry, sad, or hopeful. Obviously I won't say which way it went, but it wasn't as flawless of an ending as I would have liked to have seen.

Something else that was interesting about this movie that as many different ways that you were tugged and as worried and potentially upset that you were at time, I didn't feel like there was an antagonist. There were times during this movie where you wanted to get made at certain characters because of how they acted, but you couldn't because these characters weren't aware of all of the circumstances. In fact, there was really only character I felt that you even had the right to get made at, but you knew too much about this character and was willing to give him/her as much time to right a situation (or two) or to make his/her situation worse. I found myself finding the lack of antagonist in a mild drama to be interesting. It was one of those movies where you liked just about everyone, but if an event or two was known about and these characters behaved in the same way, you would not feel the same way. You'll know exactly what I mean when you see this movie. And, yes, you should see this movie.

I haven't mentioned this yet in a post, but this is something that I will revisit with some of these upcoming reviews. This is the year for actresses in a leading role. The men have controlled the majority of the memorable performances in recent year, but this year it is the complete opposite. In fact, the only knock out performance that I envision being delivered by a man (the wildcard here being Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant) is Eddie Redmayne who, ironically, plays the role of one of the first trans women to undergo sex reassignment surgery in The Other Danish Girl. So far we've had Brie Larson (Room) and Carey Mulligan (Suffragette) as legitimate contenders for Oscar's top acting prize. Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) and Cate Blanchett (Carol) both in films yet to be released seem to be locks. But welcome to the permanent conversation Saoirse Ronan (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Atonement). Your spot seems very safe in what will likely be the best development of a lead female character in a movie this yer. Larson is still the absolute favorite here. Lawrence and Blanchett seem to deliver in everything they touch. But Ronan (who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress way back in 2007 for Atonement) could absolutely spoil  because of how full this performance was. A complete unknown to me prior to this movie, she won me over more and more with each and every scene.

There is  considerable amount of foreshadowing in this movie and a lot of it you won't even notice until it's smack dab in your face. The early parts of this movie are eerily reminiscent of Titanic. You've got the lead character traveling from Europe to America via ship in hopes a better life. You've got adverse conditions on the ship. Granted the time spent on the ship is relatively quick, but maybe not as quick as you'd think. I'd say there was a good 10-15 minutes spent on this ship. It seemed a little long at first, but it does make sense. But the comparisons to Titanic, more or less, end there. There is no iceberg. And the name of the movie probably wouldn't be called Brooklyn if Eilis (Ronan) didn't actually make it to Brooklyn.

I've written four paragraphs and I haven't even mentioned the plot or really any of the characters. Brooklyn begins in a small village in 1950 Ireland. Eilis lives a very drab life. It is by no means glamorous and she is by no means glamorous. Her prospects for the future both personally and vocationally are limited and this leaves her depressed. In an attempt to give her a better life, her older sister Rose buys a ticket to go to America where she'll connect with a Father Flood (Jim Broadbent - Iris, The Iron Lady), a helpful priest who who gets her a job as sales associate at a posh department store in Brooklyn while also helping her a place to live in a boarding house with kindhearted landlord and other girls just like her. But no matter how set up she is in her new life, she is completely homesick. She barely muster a smile at work and after work all she does is sit in her room, writing letters to her family and waiting to receive ones in return. To help with her homesickness, Father Flood enrolls her in some night classes where she begins learning the skills of bookkeeping. She knows that this is where her future is. This challenges her much more than retail and she seems determined that her vocation is in an office and not a store.

I am not sure you'll see a better movie of a young person becoming an adult at the movie theater this year. When we meet Eilis, she is a soft-spoken, lacks confidence, and is bland. A debilitating amount of home sickness certainly doesn't help the situation. But enough people notice her sadness and she is encouraged of these people to step outside of her comfort zone. This includes the class she takes where she finds fulfillment in as well as going out with her roommates to social engagements because, deep done inside, she knows wallowing in her self-pity at home will not help her outlook on life. Something you just won't find better at the movies this year is a young person transforming into an adult. The Eilis we meet at the start of this film is not the Eilis we know in the middle and not the one we know at the end. And it is rewarding as an audience member to see the physical, mental, and emotional transformation of its lead character that seems so natural and believable.

As fantastic as Ronan is (and she truly is great), this movie would not have come close to succeeding as well as it did with the most underrated performance that I've seen this year. Emory Cohen (The Gambler, television's Smash) delivers the most optimistic, loving supporting actor performance of the year. If it were up to me, he would be an absolute lock for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. I am actually bummed with one of my go to sites (indiewire.com) not including him even in its top 25. Tony (Cohen) brought the life out in Eilis. If she was on the path to defeating her depression and homesickness with her night classes and her roommates, Tony brought it to a whole new level. He's Italian. She's Irish. That doesn't matter at all to him. What I liked most about Tony was the absolute respect and adoration he had for Eilis. And his old-fashioned attitude was appreciated as much by Eilis as it was by its audience members. This is a good man with good intentions. He has dreams. And, as mentioned, Eilis has never been happier than she was with him. The courting process was sweet. The way that these two fell in love was beautiful. Brooklyn is the most romantic movie of the year.

And I won't mention what happens after this other than to say there are ups and downs and tough decisions that need to be made. As audience members, we'll be tugged in a number of different direction. We know things are going to happen at this point. We just don't know what they will be nor do we know the consequences of these actions. We can hope that true love will prevail, but will it? What decision will we make when we have two forces pulling us in completely different directions? How will this affect what we will do when we have to make the decision all on our on? How can we balance what is expected of us with what our heart tells us do? Have we seen movies like this before? Of course we have. But this one was different. It was different because of a secret one of the lead characters carried. It was different because of the amazing physical, mental, and emotional growth experienced by Eilis (which was driven by Ronan's Oscar-worth performance). It was different because of the unhappiness she experienced when first living in Ireland and then the outright depression she fought through when she first got to the United States. Finally it was different because of the casting of Tony. Cohen was absolutely perfectly cast as the upbeat, loving, traditional man who wanted nothing more than to show Eilis just how important she was to him.

Oh. And I made it to the end of this review and didn't even mention the understated performance delivered by the nearly unrecognizable Domhnall Gleeson (Ex-Machina, Unbroken). This was the seventh movie I've seen Gleeson in since 2010 and I didn't even know it was him until the ending credits. This was probably the most subdued performance of his career and he carried it out to perfection. The film probably didn't need an actor of his caliber for the role when they did the casting for it. But they got him and Brooklyn definitely was better for having him in it than it would have been with a lesser talented actor.

Do you enjoy the romance genre? Do you enjoy conflicted characters? If you answered yes to either of these, I'd highly recommend seeing Brooklyn. I had no idea what to expect (sort of my thing this year when going into movies). I've been burned a couple of times because of this. I've also been highly rewarded on more than a few occasions. This was one of those few occasions.

Plot 8.5/10
Character Development 10/10
Character Chemistry 9.5/10 (Ronan and Cohen did in 2015's Brooklyn what Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams 2004's The Notebook...an unknown actor and an unknown actress steaming up the screen and quickly making themselves household names)
Acting 10/10 (how indiewire.com doesn't have Cohen in its top 25 for Best Supporting Actor is behind me. He was fabulous)
Screenplay 9.5/10
Directing 9/10 (a slight issue with the ending...not how it ended...just the smoothness of it)
Cinematography 10/10 (stunning sets in both New York and Ireland)
Sound 10/10 (one of the 2-3 best scores of the year)
Hook and Reel 9/10 (a touch slow at the start so be prepared...there was also a good part of this movie when I asked myself, "What is the point of this movie?" It all comes together, but at the same time, this was not necessarily a movie that needed to be made)
Universal Relevance 9/10 (loved the fact that with 10 minutes left, there where still dozens of ways that this movie could have ended. Such is life)

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