I’ve never truly experienced homesickness. In all of the vacations I’ve taken, roadtrips I’ve been on, and visits with friends and family, I’ve only ever been away for a couple weeks at most.
That true sense of longing has never set in.
And so it’s difficult for me to understand what it feels like to be a fish out of water, but the beauty of film, is that sometimes, it can relay these feelings perfectly.
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson
Director: John Crowley
released on blu-ray March 15, 2016
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Audience Score 89%
The Guardian: ****/*****
John Crowley is an Irish television, film, and theatre director, who is best known for his first film Intermission. He has directed a handful of other dramatic films, and has slowly worked his way through theatre to film, which he believes was a natural progression.
Though his films have not seen a wide international release audience, Crowley has a strong understanding of human relationships, and the complex emotions that relate to special circumstances.
And that’s where Brooklyn shines…
Taken from Wikipedia and edited,
In 1952, Eilis (pronounced EH-lish) Lacey(Saoirse Ronan) is a young woman from Enniscorthy, a small town in southeast Ireland. She works weekends at a shop run by the spiteful Miss Kelly (Brid Brennan). Eilis’s older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) has arranged for her to go to the US to find a better future. She departs but begins to suffer from seasickness and food poisoning and ends up being locked out of the toilet by her cabin neighbors. The woman in the bunk below her, an experienced traveler, helps her, giving her advice and support for Eilis’s entry to the US and life in Brooklyn, the new home to many Irish immigrants.
Eilis lives at an Irish boarding house where she dines each night with the landlady and her fellow residents, all young women. She also has a job at a department store but is shy and quiet when interacting with customers, earning the gentle scolding of Miss Fortini (Jessica Paré), her supervisor. Her letters from her sister Rose, back in Ireland, give her homesickness. She is visited by Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), a priest who arranged for her job and accommodation, and he tries to help by enrolling her in bookkeeping classes. At a dance she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), from an Italian family, who is quickly interested in her and becomes her boyfriend. With these developments, Eilis begins to feel more comfortable in New York, although she is slow to return Tony’s declaration of love.
Father Flood informs Eilis that Rose has died suddenly of an undisclosed illness. After a trans-Atlantic phone call with her mother reveals that she is struggling to cope, Eilis decides to return home for a visit. Tony insists that if she is leaving they must get secretly married first. They enter a civil marriage without telling family and friends. Back in Ireland, everybody seems to be conspiring to keep Eilis from returning to Brooklyn. Her best friend is getting married a week after her scheduled return journey, and her mother has already accepted the invitation on her behalf. She is set up on dates with eligible bachelor Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), who is about to inherit property. She takes her sister’s place as a bookkeeper on an emergency basis. Eilis starts to feel that she now has the future in Ireland that did not exist when she left and stops opening the letters she receives from Tony.
Miss Kelly, her former employer, meets with Eilis and says she has learned that she is already married. Eilis is reminded of the small-town mentality she had escaped, where there are no secrets. She informs her mother of her marriage and that she is leaving for Brooklyn the next day. On the crossing, she plays the role of the experienced traveler, offering words of guidance to a first-time émigrée. The film ends with Eilis and Tony reuniting and happily embracing.
This is well-scripted story that features subtle character shifts, emotional weight with intelligence, and an elegance to the backdrops. Crowley does an excellent job of showcasing how Eilis feels both at home in Ireland, as she grews in America, then again back at Ireland, and finally at the change when she returns to America, her new home with a new life.
Pros: This is an incredibly understated film which does an excellent job of evolving Saoirse Ronan’s character from timid little sister into career-oriented and capable. Yes there is romance in it and it feels integral, but surprisingly, that is not the driving force of her story.
Cons: Because it has a slow start, and is harkening to an era of film gone by, it can be a little difficult to digest for some. And the conflicts are never incredibly dramatic.
Runtime: 111 minutes
Points of Interest: Saoirse Ronan was born in New York, but her parents are Irish, so she was raised in Ireland – this is her first time using her natural accent in film. Emory Cohen was the only American on set, which is odd given the film setting.
The entire film is beautifully shot, with excellent set pieces, costumes and characterizations. And though it’s already been said, this story really does work perfectly because of Saoirse Ronan’s efforts. It makes sense that she was nominated once before for an Academy Award (Atonement), because she can make everyone around her laugh, cry, or contemplate rather easily.
I couldn’t help myself while thinking about buying this movie, then while watching it, and finally as I write this review. But it has to be said – I finally get what The Beastie Boys meant when they sing the lyrics “no sleep till Brooklyn,” a song often describing as a rant about that New York borough.
Whether Eilis was terrified of leaving Ireland for Brooklyn or terrified of being away for so long, I bet that she just could not sleep on that boat ride. But that’s just my theory. What do you think?