Brooklyn is a 2015 British-Canadian-Irish romantic drama film directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby, based on Colm Tóibín's 2009 novel of the same name. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters. Set in 1951 and 1952, the film tells the story of a young Irish woman's immigration to Brooklyn, where she falls in love. When her past catches up with her she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within them for her.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Crowley|
|Screenplay by||Nick Hornby|
by Colm Tóibín
|Music by||Michael Brook|
|Edited by||Jake Roberts|
|Box office||$62.1 million|
Brooklyn premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. It opened in limited release on 4 November 2015 in the US and the UK on 6 November 2015. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film.
In 1951, Eilis Lacey is a young woman from Enniscorthy, County Wexford, a small town in southeast Ireland, where she lives with her mother and sister Rose. She is unable to find employment, other than working weekends at a bake shop run by the spiteful Miss Kelly, nicknamed "Nettles Kelly", and is not interested in the local young men. Her sister writes to Father Flood, an Irish priest in Brooklyn, who arranges for Eilis to go to the United States to find a better future with him as her sponsor. Eilis leaves Ireland but suffers from seasickness on the voyage and ends up being locked out of the toilet by her cabin neighbours. The woman in the bunk below her, an experienced traveler, helps her, giving her advice and support.
Eilis lives at a Brooklyn boarding house where she dines each night with the landlady and her fellow residents, all young women. She has a job at a department store but is shy and quiet when interacting with customers, garnering some criticism from Miss Fortini, her supervisor. Letters from her sister make her homesick, and Father Flood visits her and tries to help by enrolling her in bookkeeping classes at the local community college. At a dance she meets a young Italian plumber, Tony Fiorello, who becomes her boyfriend. Over the next year, Eilis begins to feel more comfortable in New York City, and she and Tony become more and more involved romantically. Together, they enjoy dancing, movies, the beach at Coney Island, and dinner with his family. Later Tony shares his family's dream of launching a suburban homebuilding business and having a new home on Long Island. She graduates from her bookkeeping course, doing very well.
One day in July 1952, Father Flood informs Eilis that her sister Rose has died suddenly of an undisclosed illness. After a trans-Atlantic phone call reveals her mother is struggling to cope, Eilis returns home for a visit. Tony insists that before she leaves, they get married in a civil ceremony without telling family or friends. Once Eilis is back in Ireland, everybody seems to be conspiring to keep her from returning to America. Her best friend is getting married a week after her scheduled return journey, and her mother has already accepted the invitation on her behalf. She fills in part-time at her late sister's old bookkeeping job, which leads to the possibility of a full-time job. She goes on dates with an eligible and well-off bachelor, named Jim Farrell. Eilis starts to feel that she now has a future in Ireland that did not exist when she left, and stops opening the letters she receives from Tony.
Miss Kelly meets with Eilis and relates that she has learned of Eilis' marriage in New York. Eilis is reminded of what life is like in such a small, gossipy town. She informs her mother of her marriage and that she is leaving for Brooklyn the next day. On the crossing, she offers guidance to a young woman making her own first trip to Brooklyn. The film ends with Eilis and Tony reuniting and happily embracing.
- Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant in 1950s Brooklyn.
- Emory Cohen as Anthony "Tony" Fiorello
- Domhnall Gleeson as Jim Farrell
- Jim Broadbent as Father Flood
- Julie Walters as Madge Kehoe
- Bríd Brennan as Miss Kelly
- Eva Birthistle as Georgina
- Fiona Glascott as Rose Lacey, Eilis's sister
- Jessica Paré as Miss Fortini
- Emily Bett Rickards as Patty McGuire
- Nora-Jane Noone as Sheila
- Jane Brennan as Mary Lacey, Eilis's mother
- Iarla Ó Lionáird as Frankie Doran
Producer Finola Dwyer had just finished making An Education (2009) when she happened across Toibin's just-published novel. The novel spoke to Dwyer personally, as her own mother had moved from Dublin to New Zealand in 1951. Dwyer and Colm Tóibín met by chance one weekend in New York City through a friend at a rare-book fair. He told her that if she wanted the book, "it's hers". She called it "one of those totally meant-to-be moments." However, even with a script by best-selling British author Nick Hornby (who also had written the screenplay for An Education) nobody seemed interested. According to him, "it's about one person, but it's about lots of things", which might be why the material left some filmmakers scratching their heads. Posey agreed saying that the story was deceptively simple, but overall complicated and that there's something in the material's quietness that was not that easy for some directors to understand.
John Crowley was one of the first directors Dwyer and Posey approached, even before Hornby began writing the script. Crowley himself had read the book shortly after it was published while directing A Behanding in Spokane. At the time, however, Crowley was unavailable as he was committed to another picture, Closed Circuit (2013). But in late 2012, after Crowley had finished working on the film, the producers decided to circle back again and sent him Hornby's script. Two hours after receiving the pages and reading the first 40 pages, Crowley accepted the job. Crowley himself is an immigrant. He immigrated to London during his 20s which became one of the prime reasons he took up the offer. In an interview with The New York Times he said that he "had emotional understanding from experience that could maybe help make this film not a period piece frozen in aspic, but could give it a directness that would resonate with a younger audience anywhere."
Since budget was tight and limited, it meant the film had to re-create its period title setting in Montreal and required Crowley to hire a number of Canadian-born production heads, in this case cinematographer Yves Bélanger and art director François Séguin.
Writer Nick Hornby resonated with the themes of the novel on a personal level. His biggest challenge of the book was that its based around a [love] triangle, but the triangle is not in the middle of the book, "the first guy comes in half-way through, and the second guy comes in right before the end. So easily the biggest challenge was to create the character of Jim with as much detail as you can so that he is, in the end, a viable alternative for Ellis [sic] and you haven't got very much time or movement to do that."
In 2010, while discussing about who might play the lead role of Eilis, Saoirse Ronan, who was just 16 years old at that time and played teenage roles in films, was on the shortlist. According to Crowley, however, there never was anybody else he had in mind to play Eilis other than Ronan, whom he knew from Atonement (2007). Instead, the part was offered to Rooney Mara. However, since it took the next two years to find a director, Mara had to leave the project after accepting the role of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. After Rooney's departure, the role was then offered to Ronan who was 19 years old. Ronan at that time was facing a situation similar to that of her character Eilis; she had just moved from Dublin to her own place in London to pursue career opportunities two months before filming began. When she first mentioned the decision to move to London to Crowley, he encouraged her, thinking it might put her in the right mood for the part. It later indeed aided in her acting for she felt homesick, "I had no idea the relevance the story would take on for me. It was the first time I've played someone whose emotional state was so similar to mine." Remarkably, her parents had also moved to New York City during the 1980s in search of jobs after a really bad recession struck Ireland. Brooklyn marks the first time Ronan is playing a lead role as an Irishwoman, which she said upped the pressure to play the part exactly right, and the second time she used her Irish accent, following The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). According to Ronan, the film is about choice, about when you have gone through enough life experience to make a choice for yourself. Crowley describes the emotions that Ronan brought to the set as "incredibly raw." Sometimes, the director says the actress would ask him if she was doing enough because she was so much into the character.
It took a little time to find the right actors to play Ronan's love interests. Tony, a young, working-class, Italian-American plumber and his character was the hardest to find. Casting director Fiona Weir met with several possible options, but most of the guys who read [for the part] were a bit older, in their early 30s. She considered them as visually too old for the part. At first, she wanted to cast actors with big names but after a while she realized it was just about finding the right person, regardless of prior success. While casting she was looking for guys with the right personality, like honesty, innocence, and openness. Emory Cohen ultimately landed the role in October 2014. Cohen was attracted to the project since it was a love story, "I’ve played a lot of guys who punch people in the face, so [to play] a sweet Italian boy was what attracted me to it." He compared his character to an obedient dog and Ronan's to a tennis player. Cohen would think about the great scenes in On the Waterfront (1954) between Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint and would try to capture their chemistry and intimacy during filming. Cohen, in the beginning, was doubtful and skeptical if he was going to get the part. It was the first time that he was accepted in playing a role which he sought after. He spent about three months prepping his role and did a lot of research on the journey of Italian immigrants to New York City.
Domhnall Gleeson was cast after Ronan. His character, Jim, was pivotal for the film since, according to Crowley, "his job was to shift the film's center of gravity from Brooklyn back to Ireland. If you don't create a proper pull between those two guys, you don't have a film."Author Colm Tóibín himself has a small cameo in the movie, as an immigrant in Brooklyn.
Principal photography began on 1 April 2014 in Ireland, and was shot for three weeks at different locations including Enniscorthy and Dublin. Tóibín wanted to shoot the Enniscorthy scenes in the actual town where he was born and raised, rather than in some other town. Indeed, principal photography took place in the town including locations like the Athenaeum, John Street, Court Street, Lower Church Street, the cathedral and the beach. The whole town, once the film was announced, wanted to be extras. The film people built a shop. They made a former bank building into a post office. Filming in Ireland proved to be intense for Ronan, specifically in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, a town not far from County Carlow, the county where she grew up. She found the parallels between her life and Eilis' — nostalgia for childhood, estrangement from home — overwhelming. Sometimes between takes, she would slip behind a building, close her eyes and rest her head against a wall, because her nerves felt so raw.
In order to recreate the boardinghouse in which Eilis resides, a vast number of photographs from the period were referred to but to no avail. Instead, the producers conjectured different sources to get the economic feeling of it. Shooting the sex scene proved to be challenging for the producers. Crowley wanted to figure out how to do that from the point of view that did not objectify the action to make it titillating. He wanted to try to find a way of it feeling like the very first time these two people had actually made love, and the strangeness of the sensation for Eilis in the middle of that.
After finishing production in County Wexford, Ireland, it then moved to Montreal, Quebec for a further four weeks. The decision to use Montreal as the location came about when lead producer, Finola Dwyer, who was from London, went to Canada to scout for possible locations for shooting. Other than Montreal, she also went to Toronto and Vancouver. In Montreal, she was introduced by Pierre Even, co-producer and co-founder of the independent Montreal film production company. At the Bureau du Cinéma, she was shown some pictures of areas in Montreal that could look like Brooklyn in the 1950s. Pierre and his team then convinced her to shoot the film in Montreal to which she agreed. Montreal served as the main setting for Brooklyn in the film both for interior and exterior scenes. The city was chosen for its talent, its setting and because the production company told producers "we could find some money in Montreal". Locations used in Montreal includes the Ukrainian Federation Church in Mile End for some dance scenes and Saint Jacques Street. The arrival scene in America was shot in a place on Notre-Dame Street. There were 180 crew members in Montreal, 20 Montreal actors and a few other Canadian actors in the film. Only two days were spent filming in actual Brooklyn – one day on a brownstone street and one day at Coney Island.
Brooklyn premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on 26 January 2015. After it premiered, a bidding war began between The Weinstein Company, Focus Features and Fox Searchlight Pictures. Fox Searchlight Pictures prevailed, acquiring the distribution rights for the United States and other multiple territories for $9 million. The deal was one of the biggest to ever come out of Sundance. It was selected to be shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The film opened in a limited release in the United States on 4 November 2015, before opening in a wide release on 25 November 2015.
Brooklyn received a standing ovation at its Sundance Film Festival premiere. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 97%, based on 237 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Brooklyn buttresses outstanding performances from Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen with a rich period drama that tugs at the heartstrings as deftly as it satisfies the mind." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". On its Oscar nominations, one critic said that "It deserves its place."
Made on a budget of $11 million, Brooklyn became a box office success. Producer Finola Dwyer secured $8 million of the film's $11 million budget in "soft money," a medley of international co-production treaties. It grossed a total of $38.3 million in North America and $23.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $62.1 million.
As of early February 2016, Brooklyn's box office gross in Canada alone exceeded C$4-million, giving it the highest cumulative domestic gross of any Canadian film released in 2015. The film had the biggest opening of any Irish film in Ireland since 1996 earning over $650,000 from 87 cinemas, making it the strongest drama debut since Michael Collins opened to $662,000 in November 1996.
Brooklyn has received many nominations for critics and industry awards including three nominations for the 88th Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress. Ronan's performance in particular was praised and has garnered her Oscar, BAFTA, Critics' Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG nominations for best actress. She has also won the BIFA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film. Julie Walters was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the BAFTAs. The film won the Audience Favorite Gold Award in World Cinema at the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Rogers People's Choice Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Virginia Film Festival. Cohen was named Breakthrough Performer at the Hamptons International Film Festival. It won 2 Canadian Screen Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Musical Score and 2 18th Quebec Cinema Awards (formerly known as the Prix Jutra), for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.
Brooklyn was named one of the best films of 2015, featuring on over 120 Top 10 Critics' Lists. It is ranked fourth on Rotten Tomatoes and fifth on Metacritic's best reviewed films of 2015.
The BBC is working on a new drama which will revolve around Mrs Kehoe played by Julie Walters and a group of American, English, and Irish girls in her care at her boarding house. Finola Dwyer confirmed the plans, and had suggested the idea to Colm Tóibín, author of the original novel, before there was a first draft of the film.
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