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Brooklyn Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Brooklyn (2015) movie poster Brooklyn

Theatrical Release: November 4, 2015 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: John Crowley / Writers: Colm Tóibín (novel), Nick Hornby (screenplay)

Cast: Saoirse Ronan (Ellis Lacey), Domhnall Gleeson (Jim Farrell), Emory Cohen (Tony Fiorello), Jim Broadbent (Father Flood), Julie Walters (Mrs. Kehoe), Jessica Paré (Miss Fortini), Eve Macklin (Diana), Brid Brennan (Miss Kelly), Fiona Glascott (Rose Lacey), Jane Brennan (Mary Lacey), Nora-Jane Noone (Sheila), Jenn Murray (Dolores), Eva Birthistle (Georgina), Michael Zegen (Maurizio), Emily Bett Rickards (Patty), Eileen O'Higgins (Nancy), Peter Campion (George Sheridan), Samantha Munro (Dorothy), James Digiacamo (Frankie Fiorello), Ellen David (Mrs. Fiorello), Paulino Nunes (Mr. Fiorello)

Buy Brooklyn from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HDDVDInstant Video

How does a period drama released near the end of the year avoid playing like Oscar bait? When that drama is full of humanity,
as Brooklyn is. This modestly-budgeted adaptation of the 2009 novel of the same name by Irish author Colm Tóibín has a narrow focus, an accessible tone, and a story that is effortlessly investable.

Set in 1952, the film sees Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman in her twenties, leaving behind her native Ireland, her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) and their widowed mother (Jane Brennan) to start a new life in America. After making the stomach-churning long boat ride over, Ellis moves into a boarding house in the titular New York borough with other single women, most of them fellow immigrants, sharing meals and experiences. She gets a job working at an upscale department store and begins taking college classes at night with her tuition covered by a generous priest (Jim Broadbent).

One night at the lifeless weekly community dance, she meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), an Italian-American plumber who takes a liking to her. Their romance is sweet, sincere, and increasingly serious. When tragedy befalls Ellis' family, she returns to Ireland while vowing to come back to New York and her man in about a month. Back in Ireland, though, not only does she provide some necessary company to her lonely mother, she also stumbles into a bookkeeping job at her sister's workplace, and finds an eligible and charming suitor in rugby club member Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson). Suddenly, parochial Ireland holds opportunity and appeal to this lady, who becomes slow to reply to Tony's letters from New York.

"Brooklyn" stars Saoirse Ronan as Ellis Lacey, a young Irish woman who immigrates to New York in the 1950s.

Like The Immigrant, the handsomely shot 1920s drama that got overlooked last year, Brooklyn tells a story that many in America can relate to. If you yourself didn't emigrate here, then someone else in your lineage must have and quite probably not that long ago. Though specific to the period, the locations, and the protagonist, Ellis' story is universal in its experiences. The mix of horror and excitement that come from being in a new place you don't know are well conveyed in the sharp screenplay by Nick Hornby, a Brit who has transitioned well from the novels on which High Fidelity and About a Boy were based to adapting others' texts on An Education and Wild. Brooklyn has more to offer than either of Hornby's prior adaptations because it tells a more compelling story and it does so in a most engaging and appealing fashion.

You could marginalize the film by calling it a love triangle romance. That label fits but this is not the Lifetime original movie that implies. Each of Ellis' love interests is presented in three dimensions. They're not just a potential soulmate because the movie wants them to be, but because they each genuinely seem like admirable men with whom Ellis could spend her life. Brooklyn doesn't cheapen its plot by turning one of the men into a creep. The dilemma that Ellis finds herself in is genuinely unpredictable. You're right there with her trying to weigh her options, considering her responsibilities to others and her paths to happiness and fulfillment. There is more to Ellis too than just finding a man to marry, although the movie correctly determines that love kind of conquers all in terms of viewers' interests. Her professional ambitions and tastes are factors in her decisions, which makes it more than just a love triangle movie.

Ellis (Saoirse Ronan) meets Italian-American plumber Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) at a lifeless Irish community dance.

Sweeping you up in its world fully and stealthily, Brooklyn represents the finest film work to date from everyone associated with it. Ronan, who has blossomed into womanhood before our eyes in the eight years since she first earned notice for her Oscar-nominated supporting role in Atonement, is a relatable and complex leading lady. It's easy to imagine this ingénue being treated as a potential breakthrough role for a budding starlet. Ronan proves that the part is also well suited for someone with all her experience, which is seemingly unrivaled by any other 21-year-old actress. While the film belongs to Ronan, it also makes fine use of a supporting cast, from Cohen, who convinces as another generation's Marty-esque blue collar gentleman (and doesn't at all make you want to punch him in the face as he did in the memorable The Place Beyond the Pines)
to Gleeson to Broadbent, Julie Walters and Jessica Paré, who as Ellis' boss gives the department store scenes a touch of a "Mad Men" feel. Hornby's writing resonates more than his past scripts. Director John Crowley, who you may well not know for a handful of minor UK films including Boy A and Closed Circuit, gives the proceedings heart, humor, and warmth without applying an easily noticed or defined style.

The last two winners of the Best Picture Oscar came from Fox Searchlight, the mini-major which doesn't have a stronger contender on its menu this season. Brooklyn did not keep the studio's winning streak alive, but it did earn predictable nominations for Picture, Lead Actress, and Adapted Screenplay, while somewhat surprisingly getting shut out of Production and Costume Design in favor of flashier properties. The recognition only helped to raise the profile of a good-hearted, smallish film you could only dislike in response to expectations heightened by the acclaim and accolades destined to come its way. Such is the plight of an Oscar movie, even one that isn't calculated to play that part, instead assuming it on quality content and good fortune.

Grossing a most respectable $38 million domestic despite coming up empty on Oscar night, Brooklyn hits stores this week, just in time for St. Patrick's Day, in separate DVD and Blu-ray + Digital HD editions from Fox.

Brooklyn Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), DTS 5.1 (Russian), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Turkish, Descriptive Service)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Russian, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Chinese, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English, Spanish, Russian, Czech, Hungarian, Korean, Chinese, Polish, Thai (Commentary Subtitled in English, Spanish, Russian, Korean)
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Brooklyn looks sharp in the Blu-ray's 1.85:1 presentation. The flawless 16:9-screen filling video provides plenty of vibrant colors and period detail to marvel at. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack does a fine job of distributing score and dialogue. To boost its international value, Fox loads the disc with foreign dubs and subtitles.

"Brooklyn" author Colm Tóibín discusses the adaptation of his novel in a promotional featurette. Behind-the-scenes footage of an Ireland shoot features in one of the Blu-ray's six promotional featurettes.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras begin with a Blu-ray-exclusive section of 11 deleted and extended scenes (9:37). These present more of Ellis' experiences on both sides of the Atlantic, including conflict of the store stocking Negro hosiery, a lead-in to the bathing suit advice she gets at work, and a cemetery visit.

The lot can be viewed with audio commentary by director John Crowley, who naturally explains why these bits were cut or shortened.

Six short items housed under the honest heading Promotional Featurettes serve up a standard blend of clips, behind-the-scenes footage, and interview remarks. They are pretty consistent in quality and breadth, but differ in their focus and content. Mostly living up to their titles, the featurettes are "The Story" (3:28), "Home" (3:01), "Love" (2:58), "Cast" (4:07), "The Making of Brooklyn" (3:37), and "Book to Screen" (4:00).

Director John Crowley also offers an audio commentary over the entire film. The soft-spoken filmmaker gives a very standard solo track, full of screen-specific observations, technical facts from production, and acknowledgments of his collaborators. With lots of dead air and few interesting revelations, it's a pretty underwhelming commentary.

A gallery holds 24 behind-the-scenes images that you can navigate through or watch as a slideshow.

Brooklyn's theatrical trailer is kindly preserved (2:27).

The disc opens with a promo for Digital HD and trailers for Demolition, Youth, and He Named Me Malala. The Sneak Peek section provides individual access to these as well as trailers for Mistress America, Desert Dancer, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

The Blu-ray's menu places listings over a screen-filling, softly-scored montage. The disc supports bookmarks and resuming.

An insert with your Digital HD code accompanies the full-color disc inside the eco-friendly keepcase that's topped by glossy slipcover.

A return to Ireland gives Ellis (Saoirse Ronan) a worthwhile job and a suitable love interest (Domhnall Gleeson).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As moving and tasteful as you can expect a classical romantic drama to be, Brooklyn wins you over in a seemingly effortless fashion.

While the extras are fairly ordinary, Fox's Blu-ray still deserves a look on the basis of holding one of 2015's best films.

Buy Brooklyn from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Adapted by Nick Hornby: An Education
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Reviewed March 15, 2016.



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