Imagine being shipped off to sea where you will spend 3 weeks living in the equivalent of a closet, barely eating, and getting seasick every other day. And then imagine arriving in a new, foreign world where you don’t know one person. The seasickness is immediately replaced by homesickness, and you cannot contact any friends or family members, except through snail mail.
In Brooklyn, the year is 1952 and Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), like many other Irish young adults, is faced with that exact situation. There simply is no work or opportunities in Ireland, so although it isn’t easy leaving her widowed mother and older sister, Eilis sets out for Brooklyn, NY, a place flooded by Irish immigrants.
She moves into a boarding house owned by an older Irish woman with a few other Irish immigrant girls. As I write this, I’m still not sure whether or not I liked those girls, and that’s a huge compliment to the movie. A lot of the time characters, especially minor ones, are flat or static. They don’t have many personality traits, and as a result, you don’t really care about them.
However, in Brooklyn, this certainly isn’t the case. Every single character that is presented, no matter how big or small, serves a purpose, whether you realize it at the moment or not. And it’s not easy to form an opinion on every single character, as mentioned with the boarding house girls. One minute they’re stuck-up and rude to Eilis, and the next they’re helping her clueless self apply makeup and look pretty. This makes sense. In real life, people aren’t inherently good or inherently bad. We’re a mix of a little bit of everything. It’s what makes us real; what makes us human.
At first, Eilis is more homesick than you can even imagine. Brooklyn did an absolutely amazing job capturing this feeling, which many of us have never experienced. Sure, you might have felt homesick when you went away to camp or school one time, but have you ever been to a foreign place full of nothing but strangers for an indefinite amount of time? No phone calls. No Skype. No e-mail. Probably not.
One evening at a dance (after all, this is the 1950’s), the shy but likable Eilis meets a boy and everything changes. He is charming, endearing, and sincere and ironically enough, comes from an Italian family. Once he sets his eyes on Eilis, it’s clear that they will soon fall in love (and so do we!). Everything for Eilis immediately changes, and she’s no longer the shy, quiet girl she once was. Tony (Emory Cohen) makes her happier than she’s ever been.
But, as with every movie, there’s always a catch. Where is home? Is it with Tony, whom she clearly loves with all her heart, in America? Or is it the place she grew up in, the place with all of her friends and family, in Ireland?
When circumstances force her to return to Ireland, Eilis is forced to compare the two words and make a decision. Does she like the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn? Or the serene, calmness of her small Irish county?
While I don’t think you need to be Irish to enjoy this movie, I definitely think you need to be Irish to appreciate it in the way that I do. (But if you’re Italian, you will most definitely appreciate Tony’s family.)
This movie was heartbreaking, heartwarming, and downright funny all at the same time. It gives you insight and it gives you a laugh. It makes you appreciative and it makes you sad.
My biggest complaint, and it is a very superficial one, is this: Eilis is a good two inches taller than Tony. I know, I know…that is so superficial. But…it just looked awkward. Plus, this didn’t have to be the case. They had Saoirse Ronan wearing heels in every scene and that just wasn’t necessary. When you see Eilis and Tony walking together, or hugging, they look more like an older sister and younger brother to me, and that kind of kills the vibe.
Another superficial complaint (and don’t laugh at me for this one): Eilis sometimes wears eyeliner with no mascara and honestly, that should be a sin. You can’t wear eyeliner without mascara!!! Everyone knows that…
Mascara + eyeliner = fine
Mascara alone = fine
Eyeliner alone = NO
Regardless, this movie was cast incredibly well and the writing and cinematography were phenomenal. I would 100% go see it again and 110% recommend to a friend.
It might just be my new favorite filim of all time. (Unless you’re Irish, you won’t get that one.) (Irish people say “filim” instead of “film.”) (I’m hilarious.)
P.S. I could listen to Irish accents all day and so this movie was music to my ears.