As I ambled out of The Brattle Theatre into the crisp New England night, I kicked at the freshly-fallen leaves as I took the short cut home through Harvard Yard, completely lost in thought. I was thinking of home and instead of the usual scowl I reserve for such occasions, I was smiling. Wistful but happy. I have experienced some bouts of homesickness recently – more than I should probably be having after four years here – but if I needed a tonic, then Brooklyn the movie was it.
Just last Sunday I was looking up movies that I might want to watch soon. I saw the trailer for Brooklyn and some of the Oscar buzz surrounding it. I downloaded the book and almost simultaneously got an email directing me to a free advance screening a 10 minute walk away. It wasn’t until the last minute today that I decided to go and I’m glad I did. Dealing with the themes of immigration, displacement and the evolution of family, I obviously found myself identifying with the protagonist, expertly played by Saoirse Ronan.
Rotten Tomatoes tell you better than I ever could what the movie is about:
Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis, a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.
I am not a doe-eyed Irish girl in the 1950s who moved to Brooklyn, I did not leave Ireland due to lack of opportunity, and I am still waiting for a plucky Italian plumber to come and sweep me off my feet but this movie is so timeless and the experiences alluded to are so universal that it was hard not to feel something throughout. Much of the dialogue was so quintessentially Irish that it made my sides sore and judging by the audience reaction, it carried across the water quite well. The trailer might suggest some Nicholas Sparks level romantic bullshit but Brooklyn is in a completely different category to any of his”white people almost kissing” rubbish.
The story itself – like anything Irish – doesn’t impose on you, doesn’t try to force you to feel a certain kind of way and leaves you right there with Eilis to agonize over her decision. There is no dramatic twist which makes for a certain “addition by subtraction” feeling as it leaves the story to stand on its own merits.
I’m admittedly only half way through the book and could well be furious at the changes made to the original story but the direction the film took was wholly satisfying and that is all the audience ever wanted. The supporting cast is impressive but the movie never loses its true focus as it centers around Eilis and her journey all the way to the end.
I really loved Brooklyn and can only recommend that everyone sees it at some point. I’m no expert when it comes to awards but I know what I like and I know what I have seen in the past and fully expect this to figure highly in a number of categories when awards season rolls around.