A culture blog, mostly focused on film and television. Warning: spoilers!!!
Film Review: Brooklyn (2015)
November 13, 2015
Brooklyn is the fictional tale of an every-girl immigrant who moves away from her quiet life in Ireland to work in a department store in the titular New York borough in the 1950s. The protagonist, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) suffers culture shock, homesickness, and loneliness until she meets a charming, young Italian man at a dance and falls in love. Through Tony (Emory Cohen), Eilis discovers the strange, American customs of watching a baseball game and going to Coney Island. Along the way, she also adapts to the complexities of social politics at work and at the boarding house. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes and Eilis must return to Ireland, causing her to make the difficult choice between her past and her future life.
A beautifully costumed period romance, Brooklyn is pleasant to watch and emotionally moving at the right moments. The film adapts the award-winning novel by Colm Tóibín almost exactly, give or take a few background scenes. It suffers, however, from the same flaw as the book: Eilis is a very passive and ambivalent character who always obeys and goes with the flow, rarely acting of her own volition and barely displaying emotion. She leaves Ireland to take a job and attend classes in New York, both of which are set up for her by the kindly Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), without her consultation. She goes along with everything her shallow housemates say about cultivating her looks, and when she returns to Ireland, Eilis allows the townspeople to push her into a part-time job and a relationship with Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) while quietly protesting that she will be returning soon to New York. Her climactic choice to stay or leave Ireland is put off indefinitely until a local busybody confronts her with the truth of her American life. Luckily, the movie shifts focus from Eilis back to the story of the immigration experience by adding an original, nameless character to the end of the film (another young girl leaving Ireland for America who strikes up a conversation with Eilis), reminding viewers that Eilis’s story was like one of many in the history of immigrants, full of fear, pain, hope, love, and humanity.