In any given year of movies, I usually reserve one favorite film for my head and another for my heart. Last year, for example, my brain's favorite movie was The Theory of Everything, and my heart belonged to Boyhood. In 2013, 12 Years a Slave stayed on my mind, while my heart marveled at the triumph of Gravity.
Once more this year, two films have slid into those personal, yet different pockets of passion or precocity; and they'll open back-to-back at The Flicks. Spotlight, by far the smartest movie of the year, opens Friday, Nov. 20 (page 24) and on Wednesday, Nov. 25, Brooklyn the feel-good film of the holiday season will hit the big screen.
Brooklyn, which stars Saoirse Ronan, is, quite possibly, the best all-American film in recent memory—by American, I mean our nation's identity as a land of and for immigrants. As our ham-fisted national political debate rages over who is or who isn't welcome in the U.S., Brooklyn reminds us to look no further than to our own lineage and recognize America can only approach its purpose when it embraces those who most require that embrace. Brooklyn should be a required element of your Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
"The response to Brooklyn has been brilliant," Ronan told Boise Weekly on the red carpet at the 2015 Toronto premiere. "But everyone relates to it in their own way."
The first thing to know about Brooklyn is how to pronounce the name of the Ireland-born star, who is as sparking an emerald as you'll ever see: It's SEAR-sha. Get used to it because she will most assuredly be called out on a number of occasions during the upcoming award season, and she's a lock for a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
Saoirse plays Eilis (AY-lish), a young lass from mid-20th century County Wexford Ireland whose world begins and ends in her near-poverty existence. She leaves Ireland behind, not to flee the poverty as much as the homebound narrowness that stifles a young adult's dreams. Soon she's on a New York-bound steamer, seasick and homesick.
"Homesickness is like most sickness," says Catholic Priest and Eilis' confessor Father Flood (played by Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent). "It will make you feel wretched, and then it will move on to somebody else."
In an instant classic heartbreak scene, Eilis serves a communal Christmas dinner to a group of elderly Irish immigrants at a Brooklyn soup kitchen—downtrodden men who had, years ago built New York's first bridges and tunnels, but they were still strangers in their homes. Eilis breaks into tears as the men with far-off looks in their eyes sing a haunting Irish ballad. The sequence is as old-fashioned as Irish lace and every bit as beautiful.
Brooklyn's director John Crowley told BW he didn't want his film to be perceived a period piece.
"I wanted it to have an emotional immediacy," he said.