Alternative to What: “Brooklyn” (2015)


Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Welcome to Alternative to What: a weekly column that tries to find a great alternative to driving to the multiplexes. Based on releases of that week, the selections will either be thematically related or feature recurring cast and crew. The goal is to help you better understand the diversity of cinema and hopefully find you some favorites while saving a few bucks. At worse, this column will save you money. Expect each installment to come out on Fridays, unless specified.

Brooklyn (2015)
– Alternative To –
The Accountant (2016)

If there is one thing that’s obvious, it’s that being an accountant is one of the lamest jobs that you could have in cinema. What is there really to do besides crunch numbers and hit buttons? While there have been some iconic accountants throughout cinema, the reality is that few rise above mediocre people obsessed with their job. Ben Affleck’s latest The Accountant attempts to turn that into an exciting profession by adding espionage and international incident to the table. The only question from here is: who cares? Considering that Affleck has consistently risen between prestigious Oscar bait and nonsensical films like Batman v. Superman, one must wonder where The Accountant falls on that spectrum. Frankly, it looks too dumb to really be good.

However, one doesn’t have to go too far back to find an accountant that is actually worth watching. Last year’s Brooklyn is a film about an Irish immigrant who falls in love with a man in New York and becomes conflicted about returning to her homeland. Does she return home, or enjoy the new happiness that she has while working and befriending her peers in a women’s boarding house? There’s a lot of simple questions, and ones that become explored in light and a bit quaint ways. It’s a drama about heritage and identity, showing the struggles that come with culture in a new land. It may not seem like much, but it does help when the cast is charming and knows how to make the most of an earnest story.

Saoirse Ronan is at the center of the film and adds a certain weight to her hesitant performance. She seems to speculate through her eyes as she nervously navigates New York. It is a personal time, and one that gives heartwarming affirmation to her life. It’s humorous and tender. Brooklyn doesn’t have much in the way of major stakes, but it achieves the field of light drama with enough memorable moments to make it worthwhile. Is it the best immigrant story ever? Not exactly. However, it does have plenty of character – and that is often overlooked in films like this.

So, what does Brooklyn have to do with accounting? Ronan’s character is pretty good at the profession, even if her American job doesn’t give her the most chances to use it. The third act centers largely around her capabilities as an accountant to improve the work environment in Ireland that she came from. She is a hero. She makes everything better in a way that causes the viewer to feel like she would be of better use back home. Yet why would she want to stay in her homeland? The questions pile up and soon the answer isn’t simple yes or no questions. These are the personal issues that face everyone at some point in their lives. This one just happens to be told elegantly.

So while The Accountant looks to be a boring film that focuses around accounting as a means to an end, Brooklyn is a film that only uses it as a smaller part of a larger identity. She isn’t defined by her skills solely. She is more of a fleshed out character and is given freedom to try new and exciting things. Good luck seeing Affleck do that, especially with international business on the table. Even then, the general profession of accounting isn’t the most exciting to watch. There has to be more to the character, and it looks like Ronan may have the upper hand in that respects.