Saorise Ronan (pronounced Sear-sha) is wonderful in this movie. Brooklyn tells the tale of a young Irish immigrant to America in the early 1950’s. The portrayal of her trauma from leaving her mother, sister and community to start a new life in NYC is heart wrenching. Ronan’s acting is superb and deserves recognition on February 28th. While I am a 7th generation Irish immigrant in Southern Ontario I found the experience of a new immigrant struggling between an old and new home very moving. Ultimately the opportunity of a new life wins out but I teared up a fair amount getting there. One of the most moving and beautiful scenes for me was early in the film. Ronan’s character is spending her first Christmas away alone and offers to come to the local parish to serve Christmas dinner to the street people, mostly men, who are also mostly Irish labourers now out of work and far from home. One is invited to stand up and sing, a capella, a traditional Irish folk song. Ronan’s character is brought to tears by this working man’s rendition of the haunting song Casadh an tSugain and with one listen you’ll understand why. Actually if you want to hear the song, go to this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al9-3mW6zw8 You don’t need any Celtic blood in your veins to be moved. Trust me.
Okay I confess, it is a real tear jerker of a movie and wonderfully acted by a cast who are young and mostly unknown here but in my opinion the absolute best of all the movies nominated for Best Picture. Hope it wins.
A postscript. Unlike in Spotlight, the catholic church comes off much better in this film. I suppose it shows two sides of an ancient and complex organization. Ronan’s character would not have survived her trip or transition without the support of the priest and the parish in Boston. So it goes.
Mustang is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and is a worthy contender. The film tells the story of five orphaned sisters in Turkey being raised by their very conservative uncle and grandmother. After a particularly exuberant walk home from school, the girls are pulled from school, locked in their home and trained to be married off. The three eldest are quickly locked into arranged marriages that they don’t want. Their reactions offer great insight into the struggle between the generations in Muslim culture. The two youngest girls are too young to be married and begin to plot their escape. The youngest, Lale, is the most liberated of them all and is the brains behind the resistance. At age 10 or 11 as best as I could guess, she leads the escape. One is left thinking what her plan is. Her plan is to go to Istanbul which is over 1000 km away. But this includes learning to drive so she can steal her uncle’s car and drive it 1000 KM and hey? how does she see two young girls surviving on their own in a big city. There is however a plan and it is revealed at the end. In fact, it is revealed at the very start of the film and I smacked my head for not seeing it. The oppression of women looks like it is going to win but in the end a somewhat happy ending for at least two of the sisters. Great film, not too long and very good.
Spotlight is the name given to the investigative journalism team at the Boston Globe. This film dramatizes that team’s work to expose the involvement of the Catholic Church in covering up sexual assault and pedophilia among its clergy. The story starts in Boston but the extent of the cover-up discovered by the Spotlight team reached right around the world. This film reminded somewhat of All the President’s Men. It is a tension filled story of investigation that keeps your attention throughout. The team of actors is a bit of a who’s who of Hollywood and is superb. There is not a Best Actor or Actress here because the team is the star. It suggests that the Academy, in addition to recognizing a more diverse population of actors and film makers, needs to consider an award for ensemble casts. Nonetheless Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo merited nominations for Best supporting roles and really any of the cast was deserving of a nomination. I really like this kind of film, exciting, tension filled with no violence but just good writing and acting. Sadly I wonder if this film describes one of the last efforts of investigative journalism. With the concentration of media in the hands of a very few corporate masters I can see reporters being increasingly limited in their freedom to seek the truth or chase after stories that are critical of our ruling elites. So go see this one while you can still dream of freedom of the press.