Film review – Brooklyn

Let me tell you a little secret. Dad’s an old softy and a romantic at heart. He doesn’t feel that chicks should have the full monopoly on chick flicks and he can just as often be found engrossed in a rom com as the latest sci fi epic. Hence, when ‘future mom’ suggested going to watch Brooklyn, it wasn’t hard to persuade him!

Brooklyn is one of those films that it’s hard to pigeonhole and when you attempt to describe the plot to your friends when recommending the film, it sounds like it’s about nothing. However, Brooklyn is the perfect example of how great cinema doesn’t always need the grand plot to create magic. So, let’s get the plot bit out of the way first and dad & I can then tell you why we really enjoyed it. Don’t worry about spoilers here as we won’t give the main spoiler away and knowing about the story won’t diminish your enjoyment of it

Set in the 1950s, Brooklyn follows the fortunes of small town Irish young woman Eilis Lacey, who escapes her dead end life when her sister Rose arranges for her to try her luck with a new job in the New York borough of Brooklyn, where many Irish immigrants first settled. Despite initial severe homesickness, she gradually finds her feet, thanks to the kindness of local priest Father Flood and the camaraderie of the women at her local boarding house, where landlady Mrs Kehoe attempts to keep control

 

Our favourite scenes were round the dinner table at the boarding house where Julie Walters’ tour de force performance as the Irish landlady with no nonsense traditional values but with a quick quip and witty put down mark her out as a contender for the best supporting Oscar in our book

  

Eilis meets Tony at a church dance and he confesses that he’s Italian but likes Irish women. They gradually fall in love and we love the chaos of his Italian family table the first time he brings her home for dinner in contrast to the ordered Irish repast though both are full of warmth and obviously places where bonds are strengthened, perhaps an indictment of the eyes-down, everyone-on-their-mobiles-rather-than-talking-to-each-other mealtimes of our electronic age


  

Just as things are really starting to take off for Eilis, a family tragedy means she has to return to Ireland at short notice. Once home, events and friends seem to be conspiring to try and keep her there and the now sophisticated Eilis can see a possibility of a life she didn’t previously have a chance of before moving to Brooklyn, perhaps best summed up when she goes to the beach with friends and remarks that she had never really noticed how beautiful it was before. Travel is wonderful but it can sometimes open our eyes to the things we fail to notice about where we come from

A love triangle is introduced into the plot with local boy Jim, who is about to come into an inheritance, courting her and the whole film has been sold on the premise of the dilemma facing Eilis as to which man she will choose. However, dad and I were actually a bit irritated by this love triangle as we felt Eilis’s actions weren’t really credible – to fall in and out of love so quickly didn’t fit in with her character and the love triangle seemed to be forced in to create some tension and a cliffhanger end to the movie. We’re not sure if this is the plot in the book that the film is based on and ‘future mom’ said she really wanted to read the book after watching the film and would let us know once she had read it

 

  

We feel that the suspense was unnecessary as the power of the film was never in the drama but rather in the keen observations of life and people. To pull it off, you need a lead actress of substance and Saoirse Ronan’s performance has critics tipping her for an Oscar nomination. Her range, running from the initial vulnerable and fragile girl who left Ireland to the blossoming woman with a heart of gold, is what brings Eilis and the film to life. She makes you like her and care about her and she brings such depth to her character just by her expressions


She is supported by a superb ensemble cast, who bring warmth and humour to this keenly observed film. Her boarding house friends get some of the best lines at the dinner table and our favourite friend was the borderline psychotic Dolores Grace, complete with crazy eyes, played by Jenn Murray

  

The scene that will perhaps stay with us the longest though is when Eilis helps Father Flood to serve a Christmas meal to homeless Irish men. At the end of the meal, one of them stands up and sings a haunting Irish song, which brings wistful and faraway looks into the eyes of these old men and Father Flood explains that these men came over to help build New York into a modern city but were now discarded and found themselves with no country they could really identify with. The pathos of that scene is a reminder of how immigrants have been an instrumental part of helping to build up developed countries and should perhaps be given more recognition for this

Brooklyn is a movie which leaves a mark on your heart, which is the sort of movie dad and I love. Allied to some top notch clean humour, it’s a definite hit for us

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