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About a girl

Nick Hornby’s glittering adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s “Brooklyn”

Nicholas Barber | November/December 2015

In the 1990s, Nick Hornby was the laureate of male emotional cluelessness. His first novels, “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy”, defined a particular breed of middle-aged man-child who knew far more about sports statistics and post-punk B-sides than he did about the opposite sex. Who would have guessed that, as a screenwriter, Hornby would come to specialise in such a different type of protagonist?

His Oscar-nominated screenplay for “An Education” featured a young woman learning to push past the social constraints of mid-20th-century Britain. And in “Brooklyn”, Hornby tells a similar story. A glitteringly witty adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel, the film stars Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey (above, right), an Irishwoman who leaves a small-minded small town in County Wexford in 1952 to find employment and her own identity in New York. It’s a deceptively lighthearted coming-of-age tale, with no more than a wisp of a plot, but beneath the warm romance and the pointed comedy is a profound examination of what it means to trade one country for another – and what it means to be a woman in a man’s world.

The heroes of “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy” wouldn’t know what to make of it. But Eilis’s Italian-American beau is obsessed by baseball, so perhaps Hornby the novelist was around to give Hornby the screenwriter a hand. ~ nicholas barber

Brooklyn opens in Britain Nov 6th

 

FILM AT A GLANCE

The Lady in the Van (Nov 13th). Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner, who wrote and directed “The History Boys”, reunite for another big-screen version of one of their stage collaborations. Maggie Smith stars as the homeless woman who parked her van outside Bennett’s house and stayed there for 15 years. Alex Jennings is the befringed playwright, but it’s the lady in the film who’ll be nominated for every award going.

Black Mass (Nov 27th). Scorsese-alike, non-fiction gangster yarn about James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp), a Boston hoodlum protected by an old buddy (Joel Edgerton) in the FBI. Weirder still, Bulger’s brother (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a state senator.

Bridge of Spies (Nov 27th). The true story of the lawyer who negotiated the exchange of two Soviet and American spies when the cold war was at its frostiest. Steven Spielberg directs a Coen brothers script; Tom Hanks stars alongside Mark Rylance. What more do you want?

By the Sea (Dec 11th). Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt attempt the riskiest of cinematic enterprises: a drama about a fictional couple, played by a real-life couple. Riskier still, the film (set in France in the 1970s) is written and directed by Jolie, so if its warring spouses are unconvincing, she’ll get the blame – and if they’re too convincing, gossipers will ask if it’s autobiographical.

Steve Jobs (Nov 13th). If anyone can turn an IT boffin into a captivatingly loathsome anti-hero, it’s Aaron Sorkin. Having scripted “The Social Network”, he now sinks his teeth into the Apple boss, played by Michael Fassbender. Danny Boyle directs. ~NB

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