“If you find yourself lost in the woods, fuck it; build a house. ‘Well, I was lost, but now I live here! I have severely improved my predicament.’ ”
That was always my favorite Mitch Hedberg line. I guess it still is. It says so much so concisely, while also being wise and hilarious. It popped into my head at the end of the terrifically honest, sentimental “Brooklyn,” which is about the meaning of home and becoming an adult and is a lot less corny and dull than that sounds.
In a performance justly expected to land her an Oscar nomination, Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis (pronounced Ay-lish), who makes the difficult decision to leave her sister and mother behind in small-town Ireland and take the long boat ride to New York for a new, different life. (Sorry if the title made you expect something about hipsters or buzz bands or something. Hooray for city-encompassing clichés.) Ronan’s body language and the loneliness in her eyes flawlessly establish a young woman without stability, but that will change in the performance and character—she begins taking night classes at a college after unfulfilling daytime work at a department store and meets Tony (Emory Cohen of “The Gambler”), an Italian guy with an entirely innocent thing for Irish girls.
Adapted from Colm Toibin’s novel by director John Crowley (“Boy A”) and writer Nick Hornby (“Wild,” “An Education”), “Brooklyn” tells what’s in some ways a simple, traditional story. It doesn’t try to wow and it doesn’t pander, aside from maybe a bit too much comic relief by Tony’s little brother with a big personality. It’s the rare romance that allows us to see a person as the person sitting across the table sees them. Even in the 1950s, it allows its female characters to want more than to find a man. It also shows that rocky seas plus mutton stew equals some very unpleasant responses from the body, which doesn’t seem like good advice until you need it one day.
Really, though, “Brooklyn” (co-starring Domhnall Gleeson as a guy Eilis meets upon returning to Ireland) wonderfully understands why people do things when they do them and how everyone pushes you in one direction or another. Don’t even pretend to be made of stone at the sight of Eilis crying over handwritten letters from her family thousands of miles across the sea, or faces young and old moved by a song that reminds them of home. It’s the kind of movie that makes you want to hug someone you love, and thankful you’ve got them close enough to do so.
See it, obviously. 3.5 stars (out of four)
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