Classic filmmaking has returned in Brooklyn, an immigrant love story set in 1950’s Brooklyn and Ireland. Saoirse Ronan brings a quiet, yet strong presence to the character of Eilis Lacey, a twenty-something woman trying to find her own way in a new country. Forced to leave her home in Ireland for a job in Brooklyn, shy Eilis finds herself and a home.
Leaving her older sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott), to care for her elderly mother, Mary (Jane Brennan), Eilis gets sponsored to the United States by a sweet Irish priest, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent). A place to stay and a place to work have all been arranged by Father Flood and Eilis sets out with great trepidation. Her small world is expanding and her social naiveté makes it hard for her to make friends once she gets to Brooklyn.
One of the delights of the film centers around the dinner table at her boarding house, ruled over by the strict, opinionated, and terribly funny Mrs. Keogh (Julie Walters). The other young women boarding at the house seem loud and uncouth to Eilis yet she accepts their help and advice on how to blend into the social scene in her new home.
Meeting New People
Father Flood invites Eilis to the dances at the parish and there she meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), who falls head-over-heels in love with her. A humble plumber, he takes her to the movies and shows her the place on Long Island where he wants to build his future home, and walks her home after her night classes in accounting. A fantastic scene is Eilis, sitting at the dinner table in the boarding house, being taught how to twirl spaghetti on a spoon before going to meet Tony’s family. Tony’s little brother, Frankie (James GiGiacomo), entertains everyone with his smart-aleck comments. He says what everyone else is thinking, “Aren’t Italians supposed to hate Irish?”
Then Eilis receives news from home. Rose has died suddenly and Eilis needs to go home to Ireland. Tony worries that she won’t return so they get married at City Hall before Eilis sails but they don’t tell anyone. While home, life gets complicated. Eilis gets a temporary job but her boss likes her work so much, he offers her a full-time position. She also gets set up with Jim (Domhmall Gleeson) by her well-meaning friends. Eilis finds herself wondering if she should stay and the movie becomes filled with anticipation: will she stay with Jim and her mother, or will she return to Brooklyn and Tony?
Ronan beautifully captures everything Eilis is feeling and thinking and truly brings the audience into Eilis’ struggle and confusion. Brooklyn is well deserving of the Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Ronan for Best Actress. Genuinely delightful, Brooklyn lets each of us contemplate the sorrows, the joys, and everything in between for those people and places we call home.