Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015)
There’s usually always at least one British period piece nominated for Best Picture. And it’s normally nice, quaint, but often just there because that sort of film is expected to be. This year that place was filled by Brooklyn, based on the novel by Colm Toibin, adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, and directed by John Crowley. It follows young Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) as she emigrates from Ireland to America in the 1950s. The posh English accents are out, and something slightly different from the norm is in.That a film about a woman (in fact two films, with Room also nominated) was nominated for Best Picture this year is surely progress, given Oscars’ history (of course, they’re still all films about white people). Brooklyn doesn’t quite break the mould, but it does manage to resonate even sixty years after it is set. Caught between two countries – the old and the new, the comfortable and the land of opportunity, Eilis is faced with a choice, and while it seems obvious to me (New York ALWAYS wins) it’s clearly a difficult one for her.
Without spoiling anything, the time in which Brooklyn is set makes the resolution quite a bit more straight-forward than would be the case today given traditional values of the time. It loses a little something for this reason, and yet the importance of the decision and the fact that it’s a woman who gets to make it, means its storyline isn’t stuck in the past as badly as you might expect. There is optimism at its core, resulting in a film that is rather more delightful than merely quaint.