A young Irish woman leaves her homeland for America and discovers a new life in 1950s New York but is faced with a very complex choice in the heart-warming and brilliant immigrant tale, Brooklyn.
There is no such thing as a “self-made person;” someone sacrificed or assisted in some way to help us become successful, whether we admit it or not. The benefactor of that sacrifice is the young and exceptional bright, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan). In Enniscorthy, County Wexford in southeast Ireland, she and her loving older sister, Rose, care for their mother and think about the prospects for the future. By day, Eilis works in a general store for her very demanding and difficult boss, the soul-crushing Miss Kelly (Brid Brennan).
Eilis’ life and prospects are limited as her life revolves around keeping her mother company, working and looking at marriage prospects at the Saturday Night dances. Just when it seemed that Enniscorthy was her destiny, fate, by way of Rose, threw Eilis a lifeline. Her sister arranges for the church to give Eilis passage to America and a job at a high-end department store, as well as a room in kind Miss Keough’s (Julie Walters) Brooklyn boarding house.
Missing her family back in Ireland very much, Eilis finds herself enveloped in loneliness and feeling very homesick. Soon, with the help of a wise Irish priest, played lovingly by Jim Broadbent who acts as her sounding board and counselor, Eilis begins her transition from the “Old Country” to America. Working at an upscale department store, under the watchful eye of a stern and caring supervisor (Jessica Pare), Eilis gets the opportunity to attend college at night.
As her life begins to expand, love enters the picture when she catches the eye of handsome Italian-American, Tony (Emory Cohen) at a weekly Saturday night social. The delicate dance of their courtship is well orchestrated by director John Crowley. Tony and Eilis’s conversations as they walk around their neighborhood feel intimate, yet very accessible. You always get the feeling that these two young lovers from different cultures will find a way to overcome any obstacles so they can be together. As Eilis is growing comfortable with life in New York, tragedy strikes a key family member and the urge to go to Ireland to be with her family returns.
Major decisions are made and secrets are kept as Eilis returns back to Enniscourthy. There she finds that the future that once appeared cloudy in her native land has brighten considerably. She meets an old friend, Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), an heir from a wealthy family, discovers a new job opportunity and begins to see her hometown with new, fresh eyes. Soon, she is faced with a mammoth decision, follow her heart and go back to America or decide that home is where her heart is?
Based on the book by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn is a fantastic looking, well-cast, superiorly-executed coming of age, immigrant tale that is large on details but features a small, well-told love story. Anchored by Irish actress Ronan, she brings both extreme professionalism and pride to a story that is near and dear to her heart. She captures Eilis’ sense of wonderment with her adopted land but also channels her disappointment at the hurts she suffers and on those who, unfortunately, she inflicts pain.
Although not the original choice for Eilis, Ronan feels like she was born to play this character and her performance shows that much like her complex character, her future is bright. One of the true under-the-radar films that premiered at Sundance, Brooklyn is an American immigrant story that is a true revelation and could be the first true contender for the upcoming awards season.