Today we are going to take a look at John Crowley’s historical drama Brooklyn. Directed by Crowley and starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, and Emory Cohen, it is rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.

From IMDB: Eilis Lacey leaves small town Ireland for a better life in New York, arranged by an Irish priest in Brooklyn. Working in a shop she takes a bookeeping course and participates in the Irish community. There she meets an Italian, and falls in love. They marry but she wants to see her mother after the death of her sister in Ireland. Returning home she falls into the life of the small town, meets a local guy, but also a nasty neighbour who knows she was married in the US.

8.5 out of 10

This movie gave me all the feels. I think I cried three or four times while watching it. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a love story.

Though Brooklyn may not have the celebrity-studded star power that some other Oscar contenders have, Saoirse Ronan did a terrific job playing Eilis Lacey. Her counterparts, Emory Cohen (what a cutie) and Domhnall Gleeson, also created lovable characters as her two romantic interests.

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Brooklyn takes you through Eilis Lacey’s journey from Ireland to — you guessed it — Brooklyn. At the beginning, Eilis is shy, soft-spoken, and visibly unhappy in her hometown. The frequent use of close-up shots of her facial expressions manage to say everything without words. Along with these close-up shots, cringe-worthy scenes (for lack of better film terminology) are used to further develop Eilis’s character. From the scene where she gets seasick on the boat to America, to when she attempts to make awkward small-talk with customers at Bartocci’s, viewers feel for Eilis during her struggle to adjust to her new setting.

While the storyline was very formulaic, the unique characters made it enjoyable. There is something to be said for a movie that takes you back to simpler times. With the detailed costumes and sets, along with ancillary characters like the God-fearing Irish boarding house keeper, Mrs. Keough, the ambiance of 1950s Brooklyn is captured perfectly.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the pacing of this movie. At the beginning, I immediately thought this would be a slow film, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. Everything transitions very nicely, from Eilis’s homesickness in America, to her falling in love with Tony (Emory Cohen), to her going back to Ireland. Which brings me to my favorite part of the movie: the romance.

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The love story of Eilis and Tony is what makes this movie exciting, unlike the boring immigrant story I thought it would be. It was refreshing seeing a film set in simpler times, especially with this romance. It was also interesting to see two different cultures collide (how much more cliche can I get). Tony, the poor Italian boy who comes from a big family, and Eilis, the prim Irish girl, unaccustomed to American traditions, make for a unique yet adorable couple. One of the best scenes in the entire movie is when the other girls in the boarding house teach Eilis how to eat spaghetti in preparation for her dinner with Tony’s parents.

I was so invested in Tony and Eilis’s romance that I was screaming at my laptop screen when Eilis had to go back to Ireland. Eilis is soon torn between two lovers, as she becomes closer with Jim Farrell (Gleeson), a boy from her hometown. She is soon confronted with the decision to stay in Ireland or go back to Brooklyn.


As I mentioned before, the plot is rather formulaic, but nevertheless, very enjoyable. At the heart of it, it is a beautiful love story, and by the end of the film, I was so attached to the main characters, Tony and Eilis. Amidst all the other Oscar contenders that everyone is buzzing about, Brooklyn may be a simpler story, but it is just as entertaining.

8.0 out of 10

Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, and Domnhall Glesson among others, telling the story of a young Irish girl (played by Ronan) in the 1950s who comes to New York looking for work in the new land, and then once acclimated, has to choose between her two homes.

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The film has been nominated for three oscars including best picture, best actress for Saoirse Ronan, and best screenplay for Nick Hornby, the same screenwriter from About a Boy, and the last two are definitely well­ deserved. Ronan has a sweetness and charm in her performance that matches the film perfectly, slowly maturing from the innocent girl to a brave woman that is so natural and understated you don’t fully realize until the ending when she is confronts another character how strong she has become until the end. This subtlety in its protagonist arc is also due to its excellent script by Hornby, which is able to make the
character’s journey and conversations with other people seem real, almost like it was taken right out of a history book. The look of the film also sells the 1950s feel of Brooklyn and creates the
borough as a character itself.

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With that being said, the subtlety in the script is not met in its direction, done by John Crowley. It is directed in a very standard fashion, but makes the big moment painfully obvious
with a shot put in super slow motion or an extreme close up during an emotionally important scene. I would have liked to see a few more directorial interesting yet understated moments that are up to the standard of the writing.

Aside from Ronan, everybody in the cast does a very solid job, except for, in my opinion, her Brooklyn boyfriend, played by Emory Cohen. From the beginning, he tries to be cute and
mumbles his words together in a Brooklyn accent, but ends up looking more like an actor going for a type than a natural performance, especially when he’s compared to Ronan. But Cohen did grow on me as the film progressed, putting enough charm into his awkwardness to not fully offer
it as a real complaint.

But another point that I do feel has merit against the film is what the main character’s main focus is. When Ronan’s character moves to New York, she is faces many problems, most
of which appear to be fitting in, and seems really accurate to the time period. But it seems like all of her problems go away when a man comes into the picture for a brief time. It is this over reliance on men in a female driven film that brings down her character a bit for me. Yes, that is
somewhat true to the time period, but is doesn’t need to be the focus of this character when made in 2016.

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Yet overall, the film is delightful yet has a maturity to it with an outstanding performance by Saoirse Ronan, and a great date movie as well.


The Revenant

Up next on our look at the Best Picture films is The Revenant. Directed by reigning Best Director winner Alejandro G Iñarittu, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domhnall Gleeson, it is rated R for violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.

From IMDB: After an attack that occurred in a fur trappers bivouac, across a river, in American wilderness, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), his son, and his remaining companions, are going back to the nearest outpost. Glass is left in weak condition after being mauled by a bear forcing some men from the team to be his caretakers. One of the caretakers, John Fitzgerald (Hardy), chooses to betray Glass, and leave him to die. Relying on his insurmountable anger and powerful motivation for his family, Hugh survives and attempts to find John Fitzgerald, and make him pay for his terrible decision.

9 out of 10

If Leo does not finally seize that oh-so-elusive Best Actor trophy, I will protest. I will write several strongly worded letters to the Academy. I will make a thousand picket signs and with Leo’s thousand biggest fans, march through Los Angeles, pitchforks in hand. If it wasn’t clear before, If Leonardo DiCaprio does not win Best Actor for his turn as legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass, I will have lost all hope in humanity.

As it stands, I would probably put The Revenant as my third favorite film from the past year (after Star Wars and Spotlight), though there’s no doubt that it was the most intriguing. The premise is perfectly concocted, showing off the perfect mix of revenge, love, and spiritualism. The ensemble cast is spectacular, from the experienced DiCaprio to the younger Will Poulter, previously of We’re the Millers fame. The production design and costumes are spot on, providing this world with realism… albeit a grotesque one.

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The Revenant starts out with an emphatic bang, a battle scene with thrashing, nauseating violence— think Saving Private Ryan, only 150 years prior and with Native Americans and pioneers rather than soldiers and Nazis. The opening scene of the 1998 classic is known for its shockingly violent nature, highlighted by stray body parts and gushing intestines; The opening battle of The Revenant is almost on par. However that violence does not hinder; rather it helps in establishing the setting of the film in a place of conflict and disarray.


One of the stars of that battle is of course, Hugh Glass, who is, in the only way I can appropriately put it, an absolutely savage. Obviously this intensity has to be attributed to DiCaprio, who plays Glass with a determination and motivation that makes him a force of nature. From gutting a horse to use its carcass for warmth to eating raw buffalo liver (Leo actually did this! And he’s a vegetarian!), Glass goes to the most extreme lengths to stay alive— something that is evident through DiCaprio’s commitment to the character. He is the shining star of the movie, absolutely controlling the big screen for the entirety of the two and a half hours.

He is of course supported by Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson, the former snagging a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for his extraordinary efforts as the selfish, ruthless Fitzgerald. Gleeson is spectacular in the role of Andrew Henry, captain of the party, following up his solid performance in Star Wars with this great effort. Side note: Gleeson has had just a spectacular year, with starring roles in Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Star Wars, and now The Revenant. Bravo!

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If you saw Birdman, it might be clear to you that Iñarittu carried over his affinity for stretched out camera shots, the most memorable being the bear attack scene, shot in one continuous take. The extended shot puts emphasis on the brutality of the assault: the audience does not get a break from it because the camera does not cut away. This effect is prominent throughout the movie, underscoring the barbarity that Glass faces, which only strengthens his character every time he is able to overcome it.

My only criticism was the importance given to the storyline regarding the Indians and the French— all I really wanted to see was Leo, so each scene that was solely about this conflict felt like an interruption. Though this B plot ultimately served a purpose, I think it was given too much screen time, ruining the pacing of an otherwise great film.

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There are a lot of fantastic things in this movie. This movie is nearly flawless, impressing me in almost all aspects of film making (acting, cinematography, screenwriting, production design), with my only grievance being minor pacing issues. It is an emotional journey, with visceral effects that make it as realistic as possible. The Revenant can be considered nothing less than a successful follow up to Birdman for Alejandro G Iñarittu, one that could thrust him into Oscar glory for the second consecutive year, and finally give Leo that Oscar he deserves.

8.5 out of 10

Much has been made of the great feat of endurance that was making Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant. And despite a comfy chair and a snack of Swedish, and firmly dead, fish coming out I felt that I could empathize somewhat with Leo and co.’s struggle. This sounds harsh but is not necessarily a criticism. Much like a long camping trip into the woods, The Revenant will be divine for some. But for others, The Revenant will be gorgeous, occasionally profound but at the end of the day all a bit much.

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Even the first scene, an attack on the fur trappers’ camp by natives, goes on ever so slightly too long. It is a minor sin but portentous nevertheless. From that scene onwards, the movie is a breathless assault on the senses. DiCaprio’s character, the abandoned fur trapper Hugh Glass, suffers trial after trial at the hands of the brutal land and its inhabitants, emerging bloodied and panting from each. Watching DiCaprio endure the first few is entertaining but as the film enters its third hour, they become tiresome and, as the watcher becomes ever more desensitized to the violence, Inarittu seems determined to keep the crowd gasping through escalating gore.

One possible solution to the problem of length might have been to shorten the film to a more digestible 90 minutes. This is an interesting suggestion but fundamentally flawed. A film titled The Revenant, as infantile as this may sound, has to be an epic. Although its raging 156 minutes may turn some off, in so many other ways the pure mass of the film is the film’s greatest strength. One cannot please everyone when making a film as grand as Glass’ story necessitates, and Inarritu deserves kudos for the pure conviction he displayed in making this beast of a film.

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And to be fair, there are some moments of repose. We are treated to occasional expository glimpses of burning camps and ethereal women on the wind. DiCaprio does well to imbue these scenes with emotion, even if at points one can almost hear the yearning for an Oscar in his breath.

On the more general topic of the acting in the film, it is all about the two men: Tom Hardy and DiCaprio. Both are such well-respected actors and in this film they earn their reputation with two great examples of physical acting. There is a strong stress on the physical there as both talk little and a decent portion of it is largely incomprehensible. In fact, DiCaprio’s most powerful line of the film, a laconic mutter about his son, is in the trailer. In the end, however, it hardly matters. DiCaprio and Hardy are both such immense presences on the screen, not only physically but emotionally too, that the dearth of dialogue becomes irrelevant.

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But as much as the film is really all about DiCaprio’s relentless hunt for those who forsook him, many will find that the most intriguing narrative to The Revenant is that of the Indians who weave in and out of the film’s forests and storyline. The film will certainly not be remembered for its portrayal of Indians and DiCaprio’s brief meeting with a wise healer/mentor at the darkest point of his journey is almost painfully cliché but the film’s portrayal of the plight of the displaced and disillusioned natives is nevertheless a thoroughly interesting piece of The Revenant’s epic puzzle.

In short, The Revenant may be one of the most divisive Best Picture frontrunners in recent history, and there’s a very good chance anyone who will enjoy it has already seen it. But if you like a good vista, and don’t mind a touch of blood, it’s a glorious ride.