Brooklyn-PosBrooklyn (Dir: John Crowley)

Immigration tales may be ones that many regard as very predictable affairs. Young go-getter moves to a new country, struggles to fit in, finds solace and maybe love in a local, leading to a brighter future in their new home. These are the beats you expect, and it is a beat that John Crowley’s Brooklyn very much marches to. However, Brooklyn does so much more than play out a tale that you think you already know. Through slight adjustments, a ear for humour, and an eye for warmth, Brooklyn transforms in to one of the finest and simply one of the most moving films that this year has had to offer.

Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) leaves her sister and mother behind in Ireland to start a life in America, with life back at home offering little for her. Upon her arrival in the city of Brooklyn (roll credits), Eilis finds herself gripped by the woes and aches of homesickness, struggling to adapt to a new life on the other side of the Atlantic. All that soon begins to change when she meets young Italian American Tony (Emory Cohen), whom she begins dating and slowly but surely falls in love with. However, when some shocking news calls her back home to Ireland, Eilis finds her heart torn between her original and adoptive home.

Brooklyn may well prove to be the dark horse of this Awards season due to its understated brilliance at telling a story that does not experience a great of incident, but delivers in genuine emotion to compensate for its sleight narrative weight. Eilis is a passive character for the most part of the opening of the film as she attempts and struggles to settle in to a new life in New York. These moments feel entirely genuine, with Eilis being alone, despite being surrounded by many fellow countrymen and women.

When Eilis encounters Tony, the film moulds from immigration tale into an old fashioned romance that is simply about to people falling head over heels for each other, enjoying each others company, and allowing us to fall equally for them as a pairing. The narrative takes a sharp turn as it heads into its third act, sending Eilis back to Ireland in the face of tragedy.

It is in the third act that most of the drama and tension that the film has to offer arises, as Eilis is faced with a decision; whether to remain in Ireland, where she is suddenly offered a life that was never there for her, or to return to Brooklyn to forge a life with Tony. Her confliction stems from very relate-able concerns, allowing us to share in the pain of her plight.

Ronan delivers throughout through well crafted emotional beats that allow her to showcase her tremendous range as an actress. Nick Hornby’s adaptation has great wit and warmth and has gifted Ronan with a fine role, with Crowley often using the frame to highlight her exquisite and unique beauty. The supporting cast are also incredibly strong, with a delightfully memorable turn from Julie Walters and an eye-catchingly charming turn from Emory Cohen as Tony.

Brooklyn is hard to fault due it its un-fussy approach and simple agenda of telling an effectively emotional tale through the prism of a young woman on her journey of self-discovery, dealing with love, family and friends through relateable situations. It is incredibly engaging and should have you hooked through its unassuming charm and lightness of touch. 4/5 


Carol (Dir: Todd Haynes)

Ah, Carol. For many, Todd Haynes’ latest is one of if not the best film of 2015. It is an impressively crafted love story and one which relies on precise film-making and well articulated performances. The craftsmanship on display is nigh on impeccable, with Carol being one of the most sumptuously shot films of the year. Why, then, did it leave me rather cold?

After a chance meeting in the department store where she works, Theresa (Rooney Mara) starts a friendship with glamorous older woman Carol (Cate Blanchett). As she becomes more entwined in Carol’s life, her feelings develop into something greater, all the while Carol must deal with her crumbling marriage and the risk of not seeing her young daughter whom she loves dearly.

Carol, adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, tells a love story that is both refreshing and feels entirely genuine due to the two performances delivered by Mara and Blanchett. Carol’s marriage is, for lack of a better word, a sham, merely adhering to social convention as Carol’s sexuality simply does not compute with what is expected of a 1950s matriarch. Carol’s desire to fulfill her needs makes her a very driven and seductive woman; as soon as she sets her sights on Theresa she seems determined to learn more about her and eventually woo her. Theresa is equally intrigued, and each flirtatious encounter is powered by achingly long stares and dialogue that is often a little on the nose, but none the less suggestive.

Much of the earlier moments of the film rely on the chemistry of Mara and Blanchett, and it is most definitely strong in a relationship that for quite sometime feels very uneasy and almost dangerous. The film only truly hooked me in the final act, when Carol must return home to face hard truths and make a final stand for her own needs in the face of a society that simply will not expect that she is a homosexual. The material is at its strongest when dealing with the injustice of 1950s America towards anything not deemed ‘conventional’ rather than in its central love story.

Todd Haynes directs with impeccable precision to the point where it almost lessens the film. Every emotion, every gesture, every framing is very clearly and delicately crafted and strict to a vision that it stops some of the more affecting moments from feeling all that genuine. Most of the feeling is aided in no short way by Carter Burwell’s stunning score, which will surely be the score to beat this awards season. Haynes’ framing is exquisite though, generating some truly beautiful imagery of 1950s America. His decision to shoot on time appropriate Super 16mm gives the film a distinct look and further demonstrates Haynes’ keen craftsmanship as a film-maker.

As it stands, Haynes’ Far From Heaven is a more accomplished and affecting film that deals with similar issues. Catol has been a critical darling this year, and is present on many lists, and it is undeniably a fine piece of film-making, yet one I found perhaps too calculated to truly engage with as a love story for the ages. 4/5