Brooklyn Review

The nominations of the British Independent Film Awards came out recently, with many films I’ve already covered like Macbeth, Ex Machina and Amy being nominated in several different categories. One film that kept appearing was called Brooklyn, and as it happens, today was its opening day in cinemas. Does it deserve it’s nominations, let alone the awards?

Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters and is directed by John Crowley. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Colm Toibin, Brooklyn follows Irish immigrant Eilis (Ronan) as she must pick between two potential lives and suitors, one in New York and one in Wexford, Ireland.

One of the factors that drew me into watching Brooklyn was that the screenplay is written by Nick Hornby. Hornby is the famed writer behind film hits such as High Fidelity and About a Boy, making him one of the more well known screenwriters today. And just like the two films I mentioned, Brooklyn has a terrific script. The conversations between the several characters are a joy to listen to (and not only because of those excellent Irish brogues). As Eilis emigrates to the USA, the film is full of conversations on being homesick and the struggles of trying to fit in, all of which are conveyed excellently by Ronan. Hornby manages to find many great snapshots of a life outside of your home country in Brooklyn, as well as several charming moments of silence between our leading lady and her suitors, with Ronan showing the strings of anxiety and excitement tugging below the surface. And like many good writers, Hornby keeps the audience on their toes to the very end, giving us two favourable suitors that Eilis would be happy with, but ultimately has to break one of their hearts.

Saoirse Ronan has been is several hit films before, such as Atonement and The Grand Budapest Hotel, but here as Eilis she shows off her wide range of acting abilities. In the beginning when she first goes to America she is worried and alone, but as she starts to settle in she becomes a much more upbeat and carefree. Her two suitors, played by Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson are both very good, giving us two characters that Eliis would have a hard time deciding to choose between. Gleeson, while his character is still rather reserved, thankfully manages to step far enough out of the “socially awkward” role that he had been stuck in for a large portion of his earlier film roles. Two small roles for Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters are fun little distractions, with Broadbent being a priest who helps Eilis settle in and Walters being a nosey, old landlady.

My only real problem with the film is that is it does feel a tiny bit overlong. With Eilis going back and forth between her suitors in letters and in person, there are some scenes that feel quite redundant. This might be due to the fact that we have to watch Eilis fall in love twice within the run time of the film so scenes might start to have an odd sense of repeating themselves. But apart from this one small nitpick, there really isn’t much else wrong with the film.

Hearing the summary for Brooklyn‘s story, or watching the trailer could have easily turned off a few potential viewers. It sounds too sweet and sugary, another bloody Nicolas Sparks-style adaptation, despite no-one either wanting or asking for it. But, mostly down to Saoirse Ronan’s outstanding acting ability, managing to look calm and sensible on the outside but able to convey to the audience her insecurities and fears, Brooklyn elevates what could have been a schlocky sentimental period piece to a much higher standard. And, if you’re anything like the audience in the viewing I was in, you’ll be bawling your eyes out by the end credits.

Score: 9/10 Heartfelt, emotional and compelling, a serious contender for the Awards season.

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Song Of The Sea Review

Song Of The Sea has been gaining traction in the past few months. Originally being shown at the Toronto Film Festival in 2014 and then being nominated for Best Animation at the 2014 Academy Awards, it has only started its public cinema run in the UK. Does it live up to the hype?

Song Of The Sea is directed by Tomm Moore and stars David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flannagan, and Lisa Hannigan. The story follows Ben (Rawle) and his mute sister Saorise as they go on a mystical adventure filled with Irish folklore creatures in a bid to find out what happened to their mother, who disappeared the night Saorise was born.

Song Of The Sea deserves its nomination for Best Animation at the Oscars. The 2D animation is striking and beautiful with subtle hints of Studio Ghibli’s more esoteric works, the cartoon designs from The Legend Of Zelda and the cutout silhouettes from Wes Anderson’s films. It can’t be stated enough that the film is mesmerising and I can’t think of an animated film so recently that the animation on its own blew me away.

The story is heavily rooted within Irish folklore with selkies, fairies, giants, and the odd animal deity coming in and out of the film to either help or hinder our protagonists. This is where the animation shines, giving us these fantastical creatures that wouldn’t look anywhere near as good if it was all CGI. Even the homes and houses of these creatures such as the selkie underwater neighbourhood or the owl house that features later on in the film are lovingly put together with some standout scenes and sets.

Even so, the story is a very clichéd and overdone one; a story of young child going off on an adventure and trying to find an absent parent. It is a story that Studio Ghibli has been doing variations on for a while, but here in Song Of The Sea it is beautifully told and has several emotional punches. There was around three times where I welled up due to the story and portrayal of the characters with the last ten minutes serving a real emotional blow that is sure not to leave a dry eye in the cinema. It is a story that everyone can relate to, whatever age they are.

The film is full of great Irish actors. Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan are both excellent in their dual roles, playing both the father and grandmother of Ben and Saorise as well as the films interpretations of the Ancient Irish folk heroes. Two small roles for the Irish comics Pat Shortt and Jon Kenny as two parts of a trio of musical playing fairies are fun to watch and to listen to. But the greatest praise must go to David Rawle for his portrayal of the young boy Ben. For a young actor it is a challenge to carry nearly a whole film on his own, but Rawle manages to do it with a sincere and heartfelt portrayal of an older brother trying to help his younger sister.

The score, created by Bruno Koulais and Kila (with many songs being sung by the voice cast as well), is near constantly played throughout the film, but it never gets old or repetitive. Apart from the odd verse nearly all of the songs are sung in Irish which adds to the ethereal quality of the film. The best song though is the lullaby rendition of the main theme that plays over the credits. It is well worth staying through the credits just to hear this amazing song which is sung by the French singer Nolwenn Leroy.

In summary, Song Of The Sea is a great-animated feature, beautifully crafted and heartfelt in its story and characters. This is definitely not one to miss.

Score: 10/10 Destined for classic status.