John Crowley’s 2015 film, adapted from Colm Tóibín’s novel, is a moving and authentic depiction of a young Irish woman’s immigration to America in the 1950’s, and her attempts to navigate this strange new world in search of ‘home’.
After immigrating to Brooklyn, Eilis, torn between Tony (Cohen) a driven and caring American-Italian boy, and Jim, a polite, respected Irish boy (Gleeson), must decide where her heart lies. Although this synopsis may portray Brooklyn as a typical love-triangle romance, it’s so much more than this. The film is about Eilis’ personal experience as she attempts to adapt to a new and foreign country. It explores her inner conflict as she tries to balance homesickness and loyalty to her family with opportunity, education and the chance of a new life in Brooklyn. While the men she loves are important to her, they ultimately represent the advantages of their given country- ambition and new experiences vs comfort and social acceptance.
This film, which culminates in Eilis deciding her fate, brilliantly navigates the emotional tension, which feels sincere but not overtly sentimental. Hornby’s adaption of Tóibín’s novel doesn’t emblazon Eilis’ emotional turmoil, but relies on the cinematic medium to skilfully express it through editing, cinematography, and Ronan’s profound performance. From a bright and airy gardened street, to a dark and shady airless room, the artistic use of lighting directs the mood of the scene and thus gives insight into Eilis’ emotions.
Saoirse Ronan is authentic and understated, never falling into melodrama when depicting Eilis’ anguish and homesickness. Cohen, Glascott and Broadbent give good supporting performances and Walters is excellent as the strict Irish-Catholic matriarch.
Brooklyn is a wonderfully realised period piece that strikingly explores the distinct worlds of Ireland and America in the 1950’s, all the while reflecting upon the universality of the migrant experience.
Both a beautifully crafted love story, and an exploration into the suffering experienced by the outsiders of society, Brooklyn is a poignant and finely crafted film.