Tag Archives: Saoirse Ronan

Brooklyn (2015)

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I’d like to say that I saved the best for last, but no, Brooklyn is not the best of the eight Best Picture Oscar nominees this year. It’s a solid movie, though in my opinion also the weakest of the lot. It is, in fact, the only nominee I didn’t genuinely love.

Adapted from Colm Toibin’s novel of the same name by none other than Nick Hornby and directed by John Crowley, Brooklyn is a period drama-romance set in the 1950s. It tells the story of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish woman who leaves home for the United States (guess which area?) for a job and prospects of a better life. I don’t want to give too much away — I had no idea where the story was heading and probably liked the movie more because of it — except to say that of course she meets a nice young fellow (Emory Cohen), resulting in some classic romance but also plenty of heartache as Eilis finds herself forced to make some difficult choices.

Brooklyn is without a doubt exquisitely made, capturing the look and feel of the era and infusing the narrative with a good dose of nostalgia. It was a more innocent and optimistic time back then, and Crowley does a fine job of developing the young romance in a sweet albeit slightly romanticised way.

Saoirse Ronan delivers a wonderful performance that’s as good as any of the other Best Actress nominees this year (I’d probably still give it to Brie Larson or Charlotte Rampling though), and it’s a delight to hear her speak in her natural accent for once. She was almost good enough to make me forget she was in The Host, one of the biggest atrocities to hit the screen in 2013.

The rest of the cast is solid too, with Emory Cohen showing off enough charm to make us believe in the courtship and the ubiquitous Domhnall Gleeson delivering yet another strong, understated performance. Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent — it’s a classy ensemble with no weak links.

Thanks to the script, direction and acting, the central romance works in an awkward and cute way, and not without a touch of humour. I started to like the film, and, as expected, something happens to change its trajectory. I even enjoyed this change of pace and how the plot continues to develop — until a deflating and thoroughly unsatisfying final act that totally ruined it for me. It made me realise that I actually didn’t like the protagonist and I didn’t want to root for her after all.

That shouldn’t take away from all the good Brooklyn delivers, though when a film leaves a bad aftertaste that’s the thing you remember the most. However, even if you discount the disappointing third act, I thought the film would have had more of an impact on me with its depiction of that feeling of fear, uncertainty and homesickness that comes with moving to a foreign land, especially since I had experienced something similar. Not to say there weren’t moments that tugged my heartstrings, though pound for pound, Carol, another period romance-drama fueled by phenomenal performances, was the superior experience for me (that said, neither makes my personal Best Picture list).

It’s always easier to be critical of an acclaimed film because of heightened expectations, and Brooklyn is no different. While I appreciate the quality of the production and the performances, I personally feel there are more deserving films that could have replaced it in the Best Picture category. At the end of the day, Brooklyn is still a fine film, an lovely motion picture with some touching moments, just not one of the top eight of the year.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Hanna (2011)

Hanna is not a great film, but it’s exciting and it’s different.  I’d call it ‘pretty good’.

Saoirse Ronan is mesmerising as the titular character, a teenager taught to be an assassin by her father (played by Eric Bana) — for reasons we discover throughout the movie — since the age of 2.  A corrupt CIA agent (played by another Aussie, Cate Blanchett) and her henchmen are after her.  That’s about all you need to know.

With this unique premise, Hanna already sets itself apart from the majority of Hollywood action films that get released these days.  Directed by Joe Wright (best known for period dramas such as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement), Hanna is surprisingly fast-paced, with its adrenaline-pumped action sequences playing out almost like MTV music clips on steroids.  With the thumping music, it reminded me, strangely, of Run Lola Run.

For the most part, I found Hanna to be a compelling action-thriller because of the mystery behind Hanna’s origins and Wright’s excellent handling of the material.  In lesser hands the movie could have been a mess, but Wright’s visual flair, combined with Ronan’s icy yet human performance, manages to keep the film afloat.  There are also some humorous, almost surreal comedic moments in Hanna which provide a nice change of tone.

That said, I’m not sure Hanna is a movie I would likely remember years from now.  It’s a smarter, prettier than average roller coaster ride fuelled by a marvellous performance.  Technically it is very good, but there’s really nothing about it that made me go ‘wow’.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Lovely Bones (2009)

When I first heard The Lovely Bones (directed by Peter Jackson and based on the best-selling novel by Alice Sebold) was being made into a movie, I had some reservations.  Sure, the story was amazing, but adapting it to the big screen was going to have its fair share of challenges.   Those who have read the book will know what I mean.

And after watching it on Christmas Day, I must say I was right in some respects.  There are parts of The Lovely Bones that are genuinely beautiful and heartbreaking, full of pain and yearning from a life tragically unfulfilled.  Those are the same elements that made the novel such a magnificent success.  However, the more troublesome aspects of the adaptation, while probably handled as well as they could have been, just didn’t quite work.

Without giving too much of the plot away, The Lovely Bones is what is best described as a drama fantasy set in the 1970s about a teenage girl and her family, and how each of them deal with unexpected death and loss. There’s a lot more to the story than just that, but as usual, it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible.

The dramatic aspects of the film were done well.  Jackson manages to capture that gut-wrenching ‘what might have been’ sensation of regret and melancholy at all the right moments, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to describe the film as a tear jerker.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the emotional impact lives up to the book, but with the medium and time constraints, it came fairly close.

The suspenseful aspects of the film, on the other hand, were simply outstanding.   There were probably only a handful of such scenes, but Peter Jackson applied his magic touch to them and it kept me on the edge of my seat every time.  It made me wish there were more of them.

Of course, much of the credit has to go to the cast.  Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), who plays Susie Salmon, delivers an excellent performance beyond her years.   She has a touch of class that is rarely seen in young actors these days.  In a few years she will be a big star.  Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg play her parents, and are both good, but not exceptional.  Apparently, the film was initially set to go with Ryan Gosling in Wahlberg’s role, but he looked ‘too young’ to pull it off, even with a full beard.  While that may be right, I got the feeling that Wahlberg may have been too young as well, especially with that floppy 70s haircut.

The standout though, has to be Stanley Tucci’s Mr Harvey.  Tucci has been nominated for a Golden Globe for this performance (and I predict an Oscar nomination as well).  Every time he’s on screen he unsettles you and makes you feel uncomfortable.   I don’t know if he is more deserving than Christoph Waltz from Inglourious Basterds, but Tucci is right up there after delivering one of the creepiest performances I’ve seen in a long time.

So that’s what’s good about The Lovely Bones.  As I mentioned earlier, the film is a drama fantasy, and it’s because there are a substantial number of ‘fantasy’ scenes, filled with expensive special effects and an abundance of pretty imagery.  These sequences take up a large part of the second half of the film, and that’s when my interest in the film really waned.

Those sequences were an integral part of the novel, so I wouldn’t have expected Jackson to cut them out completely, but there was too much of it for my liking.   They were too long, too weird, and dare I say even somewhat silly.   It just didn’t match the rest of the film as well as I would have liked.   I don’t know if anyone else could have done a better job with it, but the bottom line is that those sequences, for the most part, didn’t work.  If Jackson could have limited such scenes to an absolute minimum and ramped up the suspenseful and dramatic scenes, The Lovely Bones may have been a classic.

So overall, The Lovely Bones is a very solid, albeit uneven film.  There are moments that can get to you on an emotional level, but it’s unfortunate that the lengthy fantasy sequences dragged it down.  A minor disappointment as I had been looking forward to it and expected it to be better than it actually was.

3.5 stars out of 5!