This post is made possible by support from Fox Searchlight Pictures. All opinions are my own.
BROOKLYN tells the story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn.
From the minute sweet, naive, small town Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) appears on screen, we like her, we relate to her. Unable to earn a living in 1952 Ireland under a niggardly boss with a prune-ish scowl and a nasty streak, Eilis at first blush jumps at the chance to escape to New York for the opportunity, the glamour, and the allure of the unknown. With the help of a local priest, her beloved big sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) has arranged a job and a comfortable boarding house. Departure is made all the more bittersweet, leaving her widowed mother (Jane Brennan) under Rose’s exclusive care.
Through the trials of a sickening sea crossing, intimidating immigration process, a bevy of worldly housemates who long to tart her up and a house maven (Julie Walters) not afraid to chastise with sharp-tongued judgement, Eilis suffers through it, and a department store job meant for a much bubblier personality than her homesick heart can muster.
A kindly and supportive Brooklyn Priest (Jim Broadbent) commiserates, ‘It’s a sickness like any other. You get over it…and pass it on.’ His warm empathy leads him to pay for her night classes and encourage her attendance at weekly church dances. There she meets a gentle Italian-American working class suitor (Emory Cohen ). Her heart begins to shift. Even her new beau’s marvelous, entertaining family is wooed by her sweetness.
Just when Eilis’s foothold in the New World seems assured, Ireland tugs her back, a tragedy tearing her world apart.
“I’d forgotten,” Eilis says of the beautiful land she’d left behind. Another highly eligible young man (Domnhall Gleeson) pursues her. The comforts of home, the simply majesty of the seashore, the love of her mother –all challenge Eilis to face a monumental decision. Will she remain or will she open the door to the new life she’s made in New York? With no assurance of ever seeing home and family again, how difficult to leave.
A classic assimilation story, not at all. If you expect a gritty, rough-edged coming of age immigrant film, you’d be wrong too. Never succumbing to soap opera sentimentality, richly crafted with a rare and appealing excellence, each character is imminently believable. We are drawn under the spell of a simple story well told.
Director John Crowley, script by Nick Hornby, based on Colm Toibin’s popular novel give Brooklyn wonderful credentials. The visual allure of this perfect time capsule with its oft dream- like colors and lush musical score would be enough to recommend, but the strength of the cast and award-caliber performances put it among the year’s best.
Not only a draw to twenty-somethings with a penchant for historical fiction, nor just for women ‘of an age’ who enjoy an old-fashioned simpler time; Brooklyn addresses the ‘grass is greener’ struggle within each of us and how relationships more than complicate the outer simplicity of a gorgeous locale. Exploring what ‘home’ means and how circumstances can change one’s perception are both timeless and ageless. I laughed. I cried. This is the stuff of a great film.
- Official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival
- The perfect movie to see over Thanksgiving with your family.