Brooklyn

Love is an amazing thing. It can bring a person out of his or her shell. It can make a person love life itself more than he or she imagined. In Brooklyn, the transformation Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) undergoes when she falls in love is inspiring and heartwarming.

Brooklyn is a classic. In 1950, young Eilis works in bakery in a small town in Ireland. She lives with her widowed mother (Jane Brennan)and her sister (Fiona Glascott). She takes the bold step of moving to America, specifically Brooklyn.

She moves into a boarding house run by the entertaining Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters). She gets a job as a department store clerk where her boss (Jessica Paré) gives encouragement, even though Eilis is shy and tentative with customers.

Her local priest (Jim Broadbent) helps with night school tuition. At a church dance she meets Tony (Emory Cohen) and falls in love. His is a working class Italian family. Her romance is not the only factor that brings her out of her shell, but it is the big one.

A tragedy at home sends her back to Ireland for a visit. While there, a friend introduces her to Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), a handsome single man from a well-to-do family. Now that life and love have opened her up to new possibilities, she is torn between two men and two countries.

Should she stay in Ireland or should she return to Brooklyn? Should she stay with Jim or return to Tony?

Brooklyn is a film that bears similarities to movies made in the early 50s era where it is set. This is the kind of movie for people who say, “Why don’t they make movies like they used to?” (Tip your grandparents about this one!) The script is by Nick Hornby from a novel by Colm Toibin. Director is John Crowley.

Saoirse Ronan is a certain Oscar nominee for best actress. She is blessed with an expressive face that shows a wide range of emotions. Her understated beauty and her acting skill make her perfect for this dream role. With a strong resumé already at age 21, her future appears limitless. See the film, enjoy her performance!

 

The Place Beyond The Pines

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper have just one scene together in The Place Beyond the Pines, but it’s the pivotal scene of the movie. In a film full of interesting and well-developed characters, theirs are the ones the movie is built around. A film with strong performances from two of our best young actors is one that must be seen.

These two men are both basically good guys who each face moral dilemmas. Gosling plays a guy who rides stunt motorcycles in a carnival. He reluctantly becomes a bank robber. Cooper goes from law school to the police force where he encounters that bank robber.

The story’s good, but the main reason to see The Place Beyond the Pines is to meet all these people. In addition to Gosling’s Luke and Cooper’s Avery, Eva Mendes is Romina, a Latino who bears Luke’s son after a quick hookup. This is a non-glam role for her and she inhabits it well. Ben Mendelsohn plays Robin, a local guy who gives Luke a place to stay. Robin is also the guy who points Luke toward robbing banks.

Poor Ray Liotta. Whenever you see him in a movie, you know something bad is going to go down. He plays a crooked cop. Strong character actor Bruce Greenwood plays the local D.A. The two young actors who play the sons, Dane DeHaan as Luke’s son, Jason, and Emory Cohen as Avery’s son, AJ, also bring good acting chops to the movie.

Avery is conflicted about his being proclaimed a hero cop after his incident with Luke, but eventually he milks it and moves into politics. Suddenly, the movie jumps ahead 15 years to the relationship between the teen sons of the two men. The “third act,” as some have called this part of the movie, reveals more about Avery, as well as the boys. It provides a fitting conclusion to the narrative.

The movie is set in Schenectady, NY. The town name is Mohawk for “place beyond the pines.” According to web postings, the names of the Schenectady streets, banks, TV stations and newspaper are the actual names. The police uniforms are supposedly the exact ones worn by Schenectady cops. The story, though, is pure fiction.

The Place Beyond The Pines is among the year’s best, so far. It’s harder for a March release (April, in St. Louis) to get award nominations than, say, a November release. But good writing, excellent acting and a well-assembled movie should lead to year-end accolades. I recommend it.