BY ROGER THOMAS
I realized the other day that I have failed to review a film that the Academy has honored with its highest nomination.
Of the eight films that are nominated for Best Picture, I have previously reviewed seven of them. The only one I have not reviewed, until this article is “Brooklyn.”
My first thought when I look back on “Brooklyn” is that it is such a simple story. And I mean that in a good way. So many films these days, including most of the Oscar nominees, are very complex. “Brooklyn” is not that kind of film.
Girl comes to America, meets boy, falls in love, goes home to Ireland when her sister dies, catches the attention of another boy and has to choose between her old life and her new life. A simple story told very well.
The film looks great. Set in the 1950s, the film offers sets, costumes and visual effects that transport the audience to that bygone era.
“Brooklyn” also boasts fine performances. Saoirse Ronan is up for a “Best Actress” Oscar and could win. I personally would vote for the frontrunner Brie Larson for “Room,” but if Ronan ends up with the prize, she certainly is worthy.
And though Ronan is the only actor nominated for “Brooklyn” there are several other fine performances from Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent and Domhnall Gleeson. Then there is one very brief and pivotal role, the character of Miss Kelly, played by Brid Brennan. If there is a villain in the story of “Brooklyn,” it is Miss Kelly.
Brennan gives her just the right nuances. I have met several individuals through my nearly fifty-three years that are exactly the kind of persons portrayed by Miss Kelly. Most people with much life experience could probably make a list.
Then there is the screenplay. Nick Hornby has written several powerful scripts over the last decade. My favorite continues to be “An Education” from 2009, however I also enjoyed last year’s “Wild” and “About a Boy” from 2002. Now Hornby has written “Brooklyn” from the novel by Colm Toibin. I look forward to seeing what Hornby will do next. His films tell fascinating stories that often linger in the mind long after the viewing.
For me, I think the heart of “Brooklyn” is not the romantic story; rather the film is about the power of “home.” There is a moment between the two leads, Eilis and Tony, when he says to her, “Home is home.” Tony says this out of fear that if Eilis goes “home” to Ireland she will never return to Brooklyn. There is also a poignant speech that Eilis makes: “You’ll feel so homesick … and one day the sun will come out and you’ll realize that this is where your life is.”
In my life I have lived in four different states and in ten different houses. I have made friendships in all those places and built a life for my children and myself. I have lived in my current house longer than any house ever.
I feel at home here in Stanly County, not because of a house or history but because of the people who fill my life. Ultimately, the message of “Brooklyn” is that home is not from where you come but where you find your place in the world.
“Brooklyn” did not make my “Top Ten List for 2015.” There were just too many other films I felt needed to be on that list. It did make my second tier and it is a film with many powerful attributes. Most of all, at least for me, is the simplicity of the story and the powerful message about home.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.