Cast: Saorise Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters
Director: John Crowley
Writer: Nick Hornby
The journey of an immigrant is an arduous one. The prospect of traversing a great distance over the ocean to a new land in pursuit of a better life is a daunting one that requires a profound amount of resolve and will to follow through. To embark upon this journey means to leave their homes and even loved ones behind and to place their faith into the hope a better future. The journey doesn’t even end when the boat pulls into the harbour as the immigrants must then adapt to this new world and overcome the cultural, linguistic and even prejudicial barriers in place. This is the journey that Brooklyn attempts to portray through the eyes of a 23-year-old girl in the 1950s seeking a new life for herself in New York. It is a story that embodies such feelings as fear, loneliness, diffidence, uncertainty and isolation. It is a tale that is effective in its simplicity and empathy as it depicts this character in her search for a place where she can belong.
Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is a smart and capable girl living in an Irish town where her prospects are very limited. She is given the opportunity by Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) to move to New York where she will be given a job and a whole new life. She takes this chance even though it means leaving her family and home behind. Whilst living in America with the fiercely Catholic Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters) she suffers from a severe case of depression and homesickness as she finds herself in a world completely alien to her own. Everything changes when she meets and falls in love with Tony (Emory Cohen), a confident and charming Italian boy who helps Eilis to find joy and comfort in her new home and a sense of belonging. However a personal tragedy occurs that brings her back to Ireland and, while there, she finds her old, familiar life waiting for her along with a new job and a kind, handsome Irish boy called Jim (Domhnall Gleeson). Eilis becomes conflicted by the choice she must now make between her life in America and her life in Ireland.
Saoirse Ronan, one of the best young actresses working today, makes this film. In her previous roles she has displayed an uncanny gift for accents but this role gives her the chance to perform with her native Irish voice and it is a treat to see. As Eilis she conveys an effective sense of vulnerability as she struggles to adjust to her new life and a wilful spiritedness as she grows and matures as a person. This film shows her character at a tough point in her life where she is faced with a difficult choice between two vastly different lives. On one hand is her life in America where everything is new and exciting and where she has built a life for herself that makes her happy. On the other hand is her life in Ireland where everything is comforting and familiar to her and where she can be with her loved ones. Ronan does a stellar job of portraying this character’s fear and ambivalence as she struggles with the conflicting agonies of her choice.
Equally worthy of praise is Nick Hornby’s screenplay which provides a beautifully sensitive portrayal of Eilis’ journey and growth as a character. The film does not shy away from depicting the grief and anguish that comes with leaving one’s home to make this kind of journey or the despairing depths of her isolation as Eilis becomes torn between her two homes. The story allows Ronan to really flourish as an actress as her character undergoes a great transformation from a meek and delicate girl to a vigorous and self-assured woman. Her experiences with love and loss are handled with such humanity and compassion that her journey becomes all the more heartrendering and affective to behold.
Brooklyn is a moving and emotional portrait of a woman’s search for love, happiness and a home. The journey she undertakes is as turbulent and tempestuous as the waters of the Atlantic and she suffers much grief and sorrow along the way. Her heart belongs to two different lives that threaten to tear her apart as she struggles to reconcile her American values with her Irish heritage. The film allows the audience to understand the pains and heartaches of Eilis’ choice, making her ambivalence all the more empathic and relatable. Even if we are fairly certain what choice she will make in the end, it doesn’t make the struggle any less difficult. When she finally makes her decision at the end, she does so with a heavy heart knowing fully well what her choice means and what it is she’s giving up. The result is a touching and heartwarming film that is as captivating as it is moving.