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Film Review: Brooklyn

Updated on January 20, 2016


In 2015, John Crowley released Brooklyn, based on Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel of the same name. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Bríd Brennan, Fiona Glascott, Jessica Parré, Eileen O’Higgins, Jenn Murray, Emily Bett Rickards, Nora-Jane Noone, Michael Zegen, Gerard Murphy, and Maeve McGrath, the film has grossed $37.5 million at the box office as of Jan. 17, 2016. Winning the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress and the Dublin Film Critics’ Circle Award for Best Irish Film, the film was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture and the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Motion Picture.


Young Eilis emigrates from her native Ireland to the United States in the early 1950s to make a name for herself, realizing that she must do so if she ever wants to have a career. Winding up in Brooklyn, she remains level-headed and reserved, eventually finding love in the Italian Anthony Fiorello.


A very good and interesting film, Brooklyn wonderfully depicts the struggle of someone who has recently moved into a new life, in this case it’s from Ireland to the United States. Upon getting settled in the ship on the way to the US, Eilis comes across her cabin-mate who is shown as going back to the US after visiting her old home in Ireland and resolving to never do so again. Throughout the film, Eilis is seen as succumbing to homesickness and missing her old life. However, when she ends up going back, she finds that what she remembers of life in the old county is really just nostalgia for the good times. When she comes back after her sister dies, she comes to understand how her small town was suffocating her and her dreams and that even small towns have their share of nasty people. It helps her realize just how much she loves Brooklyn and Anthony, whom she married just before returning.

Interestingly, upon returning to Brooklyn, the film presents some great bookends with Eilis becoming the traveler that she had encountered on her first trip to America. She’s able to tell the girl she’s bunking with everything her original bunkmate had told her, such as how to get through customs. She also helps the girl by imparting her own experiences, such as telling her not to eat because the seasickness will be too much for her, hearkening back to how she had violent seasickness after eating stew before a major storm. It’s a great capstone to the film, showing that everyone’s going to go back sooner or later and on their way out the second time, they may be able to make someone’s first trip just a little bit more bearable.

Throughout the whole film, Ronan provides some great acting, giving off the perfect vibe of someone who was fresh off the boat and walking into a brand new world. She was able to wonderfully convey homesickness without having to give a whole lot of dialogue, rather taking in what others, like her supervisor at the department store, said to her and just emoting. Ronan also does well in presenting the struggle Eilis has during the climax of the film when she has to make the difficult choice of whether or not she stays in Ireland because she’s seemingly found what she was looking for when she left or going back to America, returning to the life she had initially struggled for.

However, Eilis isn’t the only engaging character present in the film. For one, there’s Miss Kelly, who demonstrates that she’s going to be a curmudgeonly and crotchety old lady in her first scene as she refuses to serve a customer based upon her belief that said customer should have bought the item she wanted the day before and then turning around and firing Eilis when she tells Miss Kelly about moving, even though the former offers to stay until she leaves. There’s also Eilis’ mother, who could be interpreted in two different ways. She’s either a woman grieving the loss of one daughter while not knowing what to do with her life or someone adept in emotional abuse. It could go either way, seeing as the first thing she does after Rose dies and Eilis comes back is make up reasons for her to stay. Further, when Eilis tells her of her marriage, her reaction could either simply be that she’s disowning Eilis or trying to get away from her as to not say something that will have lasting damage.

5 stars for Brooklyn

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