It's hardly surprising that stories of immigrants to the Land of the Free have such a proud cinematic history: the immigrant experience has everything - risk, longing, regret, hope, danger - that makes for great drama.

It also plugs directly into America's founding myth, which may explain Brooklyn's three Oscar nominations. But it's odd that, with all the writing firepower on board - Nick Hornby adapts Colm Toibin - the movie lacks any semblance of a dramatic pulse.

Director Crowley, a theatre veteran, has created a stagey sanitised love story that's like Mills & Boon without the bodice-ripping. This bland Brooklyn is as gritty as Singing in the Rain's Los Angeles, a scene-painter's chocolate box version, rather than a place teeming with noisy, smelly life.

Toibin's 2009 novel, which I have not read, attracted praise from reviewers for its control and understatement in a portrait of a woman growing up. But a character's turmoil - all internal in a novel - has to be shown on screen; we wait an age for that to happen here and when it does, it's hard not to feel exasperated.


As the film opens, it's 1952 and Eilis Lacey (Ronan) is having America delivered to her on a plate: the local priest in her County Wexford home town sponsors her passage to New York where, under the eye of another man of the cloth (Broadbent), she is given in short order a home, a job and a night school class.

Her homesickness is relieved by the attentions of Tony (an attractive Cohen, channelling Brando in the opening reels of On The Waterfront), an Italian-American who seems far too good to be true. It is hardly a spoiler to say that he isn't.

But the course of true love never did run smooth as they say and, back in Ireland for a family bereavement, Eilis catches the eye of a local lad and finds herself wondering whether she has made the right decision.

It's a woman-at-a-crossroads story as well as an immigrant one. Eilis treats Brooklyn as a village, never crossing the river to Manhattan, and her new home has the same stereotype count as her old one.

But watching her grapple with her heart-rending dilemma, it's tempting to wonder whether she knows how lucky she is.

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters
Director: John Crowley
Running time: 111 mins
Rating: M (sex scenes, offensive language)
Verdict: Warm, comfy and nerveless