Romance, hope and new horizons are on the cards for Eilis, played by Saoirse Ronan, in this oddly enchanting tale of Irish emigration in the 1950’s.
Brooklyn, adapted from the acclaimed novel by gay Irish writer, Colm Tóibín, tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young shy girl from Enniscorthy. Disappointed with the lack of career and marriage prospects in her town, she decides she must venture off to America for a new life, paining her to leave her beloved family behind.
As Eilis settles into her new life in Brooklyn, she struggles to adapt to American society with its candid men, beauty regimes and a new job in a large department store. It’s on meeting the handsome Tony (Emory Cohen) who becomes enamoured with her that Eilis learns to be comfortable within herself.
However as soon as Eilis accepts she must cut her emotional ties with Ireland, news comes from home and she must return. While back, the locals now see her as exotic and desirable and Eilis can’t help but wonder if life back home wouldn’t be so bad after all. Eilis must make a choice between her new home and her old and also between two men. Domhnall Gleeson plays her Irish love interest, Jim, and he’s just about the cutest thing you’ll ever see in a woollen jumper.
If you love films that bring you to tears, this one is for you. It’s impossible not to get emotional watching Eilis wave goodbye to her family as she sets off to America on the boat, a powerful scene that captures the painful reality of Irish emigration still ongoing today. Saoirse Ronan’s award-worthy performance is captivating as she transforms from a shy introvert into a proud and confident young woman.
Thankfully the film isn’t excessively loaded with melancholy. Director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby make great use of many humorous scenes and Brooklyn really excels at subtle touches of comedy. The drama is intertwined with many entertaining conversations between the ladies at the all-Irish boarding house in which Eilis stays. Julie Walters does her Irish Mammy to hilarious effect, playing landlady Ms. Kehoe, a fiercely proud Catholic who refuses to hear the Lord’s name mentioned in a discussion about nylons.
Other scenes including Eilis learning to eat spaghetti for the first time in anticipation of meeting Tony’s Italian family are guaranteed to put a smile on any Irish audience’s face. Brooklyn may be a period piece, but the lessons and experiences that Eilis learns from feel very current for any young Irish person moving abroad. Brooklyn is crammed with sentimentality and emotion and anyone will appreciate the struggle Eilis takes on to navigate from the past to the present while staying true to herself.
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