When moving away into a new country, into a new lifestyle, there is often a home-sick feeling, a feeling that you are in this new world on your own away from your friends, your family, those that you love. Brooklyn is a movie that manages to illustrate this feeling perfectly in this simple and beautiful story about a young Irish girl named Eillis (pronounced “Aylish”).
We first see Eillis, played by Saoirse Ronan, praying in an empty church before seeing her in a small grocery store awaiting the rush of people who attended church in the morning. We really see Eillis’ shy, quiet and reserved attitude when serving customers, probably not helped by the shop keeper Miss Kelly, nicknamed “Nettles Kelly” because of her evil and spiteful attitude. Just before the shop closes, Eillis tells Miss Kelly of her wish to move to New York as she cannot find herself a full time job in the small Irish town and is going to be looked after by a family friend, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent).
Eillis goes away on an eventful boat ride to New York where she stays in Brooklyn. Gradually we see Eillis come out of herself, become more confident and happier, shown through scenes where those in the boarding house are eating together, made all the more humorous by Julie Walter’s incredible interpretation of Mrs. Kehoe, the owner of the house. Eillis finds herself a boyfriend, often referred to as her “fella”, Tony, played by Emory Cohen. A bond forms between Eillis and Tony, resulting in them secretly getting married before Eillis has to rush back to Ireland because of a death in the family.
While back in Ireland, with the marriage with Tony being a secret, she is introduced to a local guy named Jim Farrell, played by Domhnall Gleeson, a relationship forms between them gradually resulting her having to choose between Tony and her life in New York or Jim and her life in Ireland.
The change of attitude from quiet, timid in Ireland Eillis to confident Eillis in New York was shown fantastically through Saoirse Ronan’s delicate and sincere portrayal. I find it impressive that although, like many movies today, this movie was shot out of sequence; Saoirse was able to show the gradual change in her character and presents this change in a way that doesn’t make us dislike Eillis. The clothing was a big contributor to a visual change in character, she introduced brighter and more flashy clothes when she was in New York and bought those clothes back to Ireland with her, showing a confident Eillis in a world where she previously wasn’t, and was initially reflected by dark and very worn clothing.
After seeing this movie, I felt that it was just okay. To me, the acting was brilliant, Saoirse’s interpretation of the character and the way she showed the gradual change was impressive, the story was simple and beautiful, but I think that is the reason I think it’s fairly average, because it was so simple. Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín and adapted into a screenplay by Oscar-nominated Nick Hornby, this is a movie that will pull on heart strings and will relate to those that have been in similar home-sick situations, but I did think at points it was rather melodramatic.
We see Eillis grow as a person in New York for a large proportion of the film and build a bond with Tony, when she returns to Ireland and builds up a relationship back in Ireland. Although this doesn’t come across in a way that reflects negatively on Eillis, I would like to have seen more of Eillis and Jim. It doesn’t seem rushed, but I think it would have been good to see more of a balance. To me, the sway in preference between Tony and Jim was too one sided, but this is a movie that allows people to have a different view.