Director John Crowley Talks BROOKLYN at Sundance

     February 4, 2015


“1950s Ireland: Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) must confront a terrible dilemma — a heartbreaking choice between two men (Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen) and two countries, between duty and true love.”

When I first read the one liner for director John Crowley’s immigrant drama Brooklyn before Sundance began, I figured it would end up being a slow moving period piece that might appeal to a small segment of moviegoers. I could not have been more wrong. Now that Sundance is over, I can say Brooklyn was one of my favorite films at this year’s festival.  Loaded with fantastic performances (especially Saoirse Ronan), a smart and funny script by Nick Hornby, and brilliant direction by John Crowley, Brooklyn is one of those special films that will connect with anyone who has a heart.  It explains why Fox Searchlight paid $9 million to acquire it shortly after the premiere.

brooklyn-saoirse-ronanWhile I could try and sum up what the film is about, I think Adam did a great job in his review:

“The immigrant story is one that has been told countless times over, but director John Crowley’s moving and funny Brooklyn brings a degree of empathy to this particular tale that is rare.  In chronicling the move of a young Irish woman in the 1950s from her home country to New York City, Crowley takes an intimate view of what it means leave family and try to make a new home in someplace entirely unfamiliar.  Hornby’s sharp, sincere script and wonderful lead performances result in a touching and extremely empathetic chronicle of love, loss, and the idea of “home”.”

Also, while the film takes place in the 1950s, it really is a timeless story.  I cannot recommend this film enough.

Shortly after the world premiere I sat down with Crowley for an exclusive video interview about his film. He talked about the experience of showing the movie for the first time at Sundance, the positive reviews and audience response, the genesis of the project and how he got ahold of the screenplay, how the film is about the “state of exile” and a “portrait of a young woman coming into her own power,” filming on location in Ireland, Montreal, and New York, his first cut, how he found out the film had gotten into Sundance, the film’s unexpected humor, Saoirse Ronan, and a lot more.

brooklyn-saoirse-ronan-imageAs usual, I’ve time indexed the interview to provide an overview of the conversation.

John Crowley Time Index:

  • :06 – Talk about how great the movie is and how it hits people in different ways.
  • :40 – What was the premiere of the film like for him?
  • 1:33 – On getting so much acclaim and such a positive audience response.
  • 2:08 – On the genesis of the project and how he got ahold of the screenplay.
  • 3:04 – Says it wasn’t a long development process.
  • 3:20 – Talk about how different the first cut is to the final film.
  • 3:56 – On his “informal” test-screening process.
  • 4:38 – When did he find out he was getting into Sundance and how long did he have to keep it secret?
  • 5:43 – Says he wasn’t racing to finish the film and the final mix was completed the week before Christmas
  • 6:26 – Talk about filming on location in Ireland, Montreal, and New York. Says he’s never shot in two countries before.
  • 8:15 – What does he want people to know about the film?
  • 8:53 – Says that the film is about the “state of exile” and a “portrait of a young woman coming into her own power”.
  • 9:23 – Talk about the film’s unexpected humor and that it was difficult to sell
  • 10:37 – Says it’s a “particularly Irish mix” of extreme humor and profound sadness.
  • 11:25 – Talk about the success of the second Sundance screening.
  • 12:00 – Talk about the fact that it’s a 1950’s story, but the story is timeless. Says that the story has a mythic structure underneath.
  • 13:38 – On working with Saoirse Ronan to craft her fantastic performance, and how she lived a version of the story while working on the project. Calls it the “absolute right actor meeting the right part at the right time in her life”.
  • 16:02 – Talk about his distribution plans and where he’s at in the sales process.

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