Based on the Man Booker Prize-nominated novel by Colm Tóibín set in 1950s Ireland, Brooklyn follows Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) on a journey to America that tells the story of her life once she gets there. It’s an autobiography of this fictional character. We see what she sees. Her pain, joy and anguish are felt within everyone who feasts their eyes upon this movie. She has two choices. She must choose between Brooklyn and County Wexford in Ireland but also two romances that she has entangled herself in of either side of the Atlantic.
Employment is short in her small town and decides to join the already growing Irish community in Brooklyn, America. She leaves her mother and her sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott) for Brooklyn. She sets sail for New York City and falls in love with a cocky Italian-American called Tony (Emory Cohen) but after some time in The Big Apple she returns back to the Old Country for a while, and falls in love with Jim Farrell (Domnhall Gleeson). She must choose between two lives, two countries and two different men. Adapted by Nick Hornby, this is an epic love story about hard choices that we all have to make in life but also life’s trials and tribulations as well.
I have to say that the Irish are a very brutally honest people. They don’t side step around the truth like the English do and their history is a dark one, much ado with the English and their scheming ways. They are a suspicious people especially when it comes to happy endings…with no catches. This is the exact polar opposite of America who thrive on deception and false hope through the American Dream. This is a dream that is false because one can’t get to where one needs by only just being ethical living life with a pure sense of morality.
Sometimes, you have to make the hard call and there are some roads you can’t come back from. If you work hard and believe in yourself is garbage and to be honest, the American Dream was designed way back when in the times when America was first established. It’s a changed world where the American Dream has no place. The Irish shake the heads with their cynicism, or realism, depending on how you look at it. They know there are no happy endings and those who are happy have normally lost or sacrificed plenty to get there.
The film is set between two opposite worlds as is the mind of Miss Lacey, our protagonist. Is it Irish or American at heart? It has the general makeup of a class British period drama yet you can tell Hollywood have had a hand in its making. The film is poised and not too flamboyant. It is basic and simple yet stunning to look at. It’s similar to ITV’s Mr Selfridge yet it’s set in Brooklyn. It’s a glorious tome that is a grand addition to the romance genre. It’s set between two worlds and each world has its own examples of hardships and naivety. Most Irish girls of the 1950s live and die in the same place they were born and have the same job for life. The apple doesn’t stray far from the tree.
Eilis doesn’t want to be like most Irish girls. Saoirse Ronan’s performance as Lacey is otherworldly. So powerfully emotional yet so elegant. Her performance is worthy of a nomination from BAFTA but also the Academy as well. She suffers joy, heartbreak and loss. This the story of an independent woman who comes back from the ashes of loss to become better than she was. She wants to be more than a housewife, and that was frowned upon in society of that era. She wants to be an accountant and society of the time had the ideologies that women should be child-bearers and homemakers. An accountant is man’s job and after all the 1950s was a man’s world that women were only privileged to be a part of.
This movie plays off common stereotypes like Italians being brash and obsessed with baseball. Cohen’s performance was average but nothing special. His performance was mediocre at best, playing the pouty pretty boy, boyfriend. Julie Walters (Harry Potter) makes a cameo as traditional good little Irish Catholic that houses Lacey. What a performance from her. Witty, enigmatic yet serious as well. She’s comedy gold. You can always expect a good performance from her, whatever role she chooses to do. The brutal honesty of the Irish is revealed through Walters’ Mrs Kehoe.
Seriously, there are somethings that you shouldn’t say. There has to be a line. Surely? Walters is a stage veteran and one of the biggest names in Britain. Truly a powerhouse of talent. Although her role was brief, her time was well used. Quality not quantity. Domhnall Gleeson (The Force Awakens) plays Jim, Lacey’s love interest back in Ireland. I found his performance more intriguing than that of Cohen’s Tony. He had more vigor and most importantly he acted with an abundance of conviction in his character. Emotionally driven rather than that of money like Tony thus having a false belief in the American Dream. Truly a solid performance from Gleeson.
In conclusion, this is one of the most emotive movies I have seen this year, along with In The Heart Of The Sea, Macbeth and Carol but it is also one of the most engaging movies of the year. It’s a movie pushed along by great acting from Gleeson and Ronan but also a solid story from author Colm Tóibín and adapted by Nick Hornby. People stigmatize the genre of romance based on rom-coms like Love Actually but the more serious romance dramas are worth a watch.
This is a movie that will strike a chord with those who have left their family home to go to college elsewhere or moved away in search of employment. It’s about rites of passage of a young person coming into their own and establishing their own identity, something that young people struggle to do in this day and age. You begin to see yourself in Eilis, even if our stories and hers are sixty years apart. Her story isn’t glamorized by any degree. It’s hard and gritty to a degree yet quite deep. There’s no predestined road to happiness. Sometimes, you have to take a chance and believe in this blind faith. Hope something, or someone catches you on the other side. Brooklyn is a movie to get on DVD and I sincerely hope Ronan receives a nod for her epic performance as the once naive Irish lass from County Wexford.