What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actress, Adapted Screenplay
It’s nice for there to be a feel-good movie thrown in with all the severe subject matter that usually comes with Oscar nominations.
Brooklyn is the adaptation of a novel by the same name written by Irish novelist Colm Tóibín. In the early 1950s, an Irish girl named Eilis ( Saoirse Ronan) leaves Ireland to live in America. She moves into a boarding house in Brooklyn, New York, finds a job, and finds love. Things get complicated and she has to choose between her life in America and her Irish roots.
The story is sold as a romance, where Eilis has to choose between two loves. It’s a misleading description. Although there are multiple men in her life, that is not the focus of the story nor the overall theme. Eilis’ story fits right into the other “girl power” movies in this year’s batch of Oscar nominees. The real focus is on Eilis making a life for herself and figuring out who she is and what’s important to her.
The adapted screenplay was clever and creative, but refreshingly simple. The basic storyline was combined with some interesting camera work, including several extended close-ups (which seem to be all the rage this year), to create a realistic feel to the flow of the film. There’s a fun, repetitive storytelling technique present in the screenplay that seems like a result of the original story coming from a novel. The overall effect brings a lovely and somewhat timeless quality to the film, despite being a period piece. The absolute best moments of the film, particularly from the screenwriting perspective, were the dinners Eilis shared with her fellow boarders in Mrs. Kehoe’s dining room. These scenes were the perfect combination of clever script-writing and simple but effective scene direction. I was thrilled to learn that the BBC is working on a television series based on Mrs. K and the boarding house.
Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis and does so beautifully. Asking actors to create characters with minimal dialogue seems to be another thing that’s all the rage this year (to go along with those extended close-ups). Much of Ronan’s screentime is spent silent or with short, quipped dialogue. With that, though, she portrays the innocence and complexity of a young, female immigrant of the 1950s. She makes Eilis seem real. I’m pretty sure I’ve said that about a couple other actors this year…. I suppose the effect of all this silence is that the nominees as a whole seem more real, because real life isn’t scripted.
The beautiful, emotional Brooklyn deserves its Best Picture nomination. As someone with a family history filled with Irish and Italian immigrants, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. My only complaint was that the ending felt incomplete. I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it was the script or if something was cut out, but I felt like I didn’t have enough closure with the characters.
Best Picture – Unlikely
Leading Actress – Unlikely
Adapted Screenplay – Possibly. This category is hard to tell even though I’ve seen 4 out of 5.