TIFF: Sundance Sensation 'Brooklyn' Surges Back Into Awards Discussion


Fox Searchlight won the major bidding for $9 million to nab the distribution rights to Brooklyn, the love drama that stars Saoirse Ronan and Star Wars: The Force Awakens actor Domhnall Gleeson.

In my humble opinion, the movie of the Toronto International Film Festival — indeed, a movie for the ages and a probable best picture Oscar nominee — is one that was unveiled nine months ago at the Sundance Film Festival, when most Oscar pundits, including me, were busy focusing on last season's Oscar race.

Its name is Brooklyn, it was acquired by Fox Searchlight in Park City and it's a stunning drama about the experience of people who immigrated to America in the 1950s — in other words, many of our parents and grandparents — and specifically about a young Irishwoman who leaves behind everything she has ever known, including her beloved mother and sister, in order to pursue a better life in America, but finds herself torn between two worlds and two men.

Based on Toronto audiences' responses to the film — laughter, tears and voluminous applause — I know that I am not alone in feeling that the film is a very special one; in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it win the fest's People's Choice Award, which has helped to propel a number of other films to very gratifying awards seasons.

Adapted from Colm Toibin's 2009 novel by Oscar nominee Nick Hornby (whose An Education and Wild are also about strong women) and directed by John Crowley, Brooklyn features a number of excellent performances, none better or more central to its success than the one given by 21-year-old Saoirse Ronan.

Previously Oscar-nominated at the age of 13 for her supporting performance in 2007's Atonement, Ronan has always displayed prodigious talent, even in schlock like 2009's The Lovely Bones. With Brooklyn, she has finally found a role truly worthy of her talents — Eilis, who evolves and blossoms and possesses your heart — and if she doesn't get a best actress Oscar nomination, the Academy should close up shop.

Also excellent in supporting roles — and worthy of serious Academy consideration — are Julie Walters as the woman who runs a boarding house at which Eilis resides in America; Jim Broadbent, as a Barry Fitzgerald-esque priest who helps her acclimate to her new country; Emory Cohen, her Italian-American love interest; and Domhnall Gleeson, her Irish love interest.

Brooklyn, which will be released in the U.S. on Nov. 6, is certainly not the first great film about the immigrant experience — see The Godfather: Part II (1974), In America (2002), Like Crazy (2011), The Immigrant (2014) and many films in-between, not to mention TV's Boardwalk Empire — but what makes it particularly noteworthy, to me, is that it does so without a gimmick of some sort. Nobody is murdered, prostituted or deported in this film; rather, it depicts good and decent people, with believable and relatable motivations, trying to navigate the treacherous terrain of the human heart. And that is much harder to pull off, let alone to pull off as charmingly and movingly as Brooklyn.