Director: John Crowley
Screenplay: Nick Hornby
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Jessica Paré
It’s 1952 and Eilish Lacey (Ronan), a young woman from the small town of Enniscorthy, Ireland, has a Visa arranged for her by her sister, Rose, and a kind Irish priest, Father Flood (Broadbent), to travel to New York to find work and a better future. After a rough journey by sea, Eilish arrives at a boarding house in Brooklyn run by the strict and utterly mirthless Mrs. Kehoe (Walters). She has a job arranged for her at Bartocci’s department store, and after a bout of homesickness, Father Flood enrolls Eilish in a bookkeeping night course. She meets Tony, an Italian-American and the two begin dating. She is quickly welcomed into Tony’s large family and Eilish begins to feel more at home in New York. Tony’s frequent declarations of love are met with warmth from Eilish, but she is slow to return the sentiment, unsure of what it will mean for her to fall in love with an American when she still feels so tethered to Ireland. After a phone call from Ireland, Eilish learns that her sister, Rose, has died suddenly in her sleep. As Eilish makes arrangements to travel home to visit her grieving mother, Tony confesses he’s afraid Eilish won’t return unless they get married. They have a secret civil ceremony, and Eilish returns home to Ireland. While there, she meets Jim, a very eligible bachelor in Ennicorthy, and the two begin spending time together. She also picks up bookkeeping work on a temporary basis, but the more time Eilish spends in Ireland, the more reluctant she is to book her return ticket home.
Why it should win Best Picture
Nick Hornby has taken a novel that focuses heavily on the minutia of Eilish’s every day life in Brooklyn and tightened it into a charming script, and Crowley’s direction of Hornby’s work results in a lovely period piece that tells the story of two young people finding love in one of the world’s greatest cities. The casting is perfect – Ronan’s quiet, thoughtful nature against Cohen’s mischievous honesty is sweet to watch, and set against the early 1950s backdrop, the film is a neat little package of sweet sadness that leaves the audience nostalgic for the innocence of first loves and life before experiencing loss. It’s one of those films that only comes around every once in a while and when it does, audiences have a hard time forgetting the warmth and emotion it evokes that lingers for a long time afterwards, which could play on voters’ minds.
Why is shouldn’t win Best Picture
As lovely as the film is, it doesn’t have the strongest story. It hits all the right notes emotionally, but it’s softer, subtler than films like Room and Spotlight, where the emotion is raw and rattling. I also found the character of Eilish very passive, both in the film and the novel, probably moreso in the novel, but it still translates that way on screen. It’s tough to convince voters to choose a film with a main character who isn’t as obviously strong as some of the other lead actresses. Eilish’s passivity also becomes frustrating in the latter part of the film, making for a somewhat weaker story than some of the other nominees. If this film wins it will be a total suprise, not necessarily an unwelcome one, but for something to beat The Revenant it would have to be a lot stronger than Brooklyn.