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Brooklyn not to be dodged 

Rating: ***1/2

***1/2 (out of four)
DIRECTED BY John Crowley
STARS Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen

Emory Cohen and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
  • Emory Cohen and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn (Photo: Fox Searchlight)

For once, the Ugly American didn't have to leave U.S. soil to fully earn this designation — with the vile and decidedly unchristian decision by most citizens to side with opportunistic politicians seeking to block the acceptance of foreign immigrants in general and Syrian refugees in particular, there are more than enough Ugly Americans to be found slithering through every city in the nation. Whether these knuckle-dragging knuckleheads would appreciate Brooklyn is up for debate — its lead character is certainly an immigrant, but, hey, at least she's white! — but discerning filmgoers will immediately welcome it with open arms.

Adapting the novel by Colm Toibin, scripter Nick Hornby again demonstrates that he's a master at tackling works centered around female characters, following 2009's An Education and 2014's Wild (both placing on my 10 Best lists in their respective years) with this lovely coming-of-age tale. Saoirse Ronan delivers a nicely modulated performance as Eilis, a young lass who leaves her Irish homeland with the hope of making it in America. With the help of a kindly priest (Jim Broadbent), she lands a job at a department store, but homesickness and loneliness seek to crush her spirit at every turn. She meets a nice Brooklyn kid named Tony (Emory Cohen in a breakout turn), but just as things seem to be turning around for her, an unexpected tragedy occurs, consequently forcing her to choose between the past and the present as she plans for the future.

Brooklyn is a tale of introspection and retrospection, of having to make difficult decisions when the road maps laid out by the emotions and the intellect prove to be impossible to read clearly. The picture is gracious toward all of its characters, and it provides a rose-hewed vision of a world in which the only borders are those that exist on books.

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