Brooklyn ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
Brooklyn is a small movie, an “art film,” set in, you guessed it, Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1950s. Saoirse Ronan (who was in Atonement, The Lovely Bones and Grand Budapest Hotel) plays Eilis (pronounced AY-lish), a sweet, decent Irish girl who leaves her devoted sister, Rose, and her widowed mother and goes to America in search of a better life. She is seasick on the boat going over because nobody bothered to tell her she shouldn’t eat on the first day and, once she gets to America, she finds it a disappointment. She lives in a rooming house with several other girls and a bossy landlady named Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters) who takes it upon herself to provide moral instruction for the girls. The landlady likes Eilis, though, and after a while she gives her the best room with its own entrance.
Eilis experiences acute homesickness in her strange new world and is unhappy. She gets tearful letters from her sister, Rose, but they don’t help much. She works as a saleslady in a department store and has a hard time making the customers feel important so they’ll keep coming back. She doesn’t want to spend her life behind a sales counter so she goes to night school a couple nights a week with the thought of someday becoming an accountant. Soon she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a sweet, decent Brooklyn boy who is a plumber. Eilis and Tony fall in love and this is when her unhappy life begins to take on a different hue. Things go along smoothly for her until she gets word that her sister, Rose, has died back in Ireland of an undisclosed ailment. Eilis is heartbroken because she can’t be there for the funeral. She decides to go soon after Rose’s death and see her bereft mother, who isn’t very cheerful to be around. Before she leaves Brooklyn, though, her boyfriend Tony insists that she marry him so she’ll be sure and come back.
When Eilis goes back to Ireland for what is supposed to be a brief visit, she doesn’t tell anybody she married Tony back in America. Her mother and her old friends begin to expect that she’s back to stay and won’t want to return, since her mother now has no one left but her. A boy in Ireland named Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleason, who was in Anna Karenina and Unbroken) becomes interested in her. She likes him but doesn’t want to encourage him too much because she’s secretly married. Then an accounting job opens up for her that she can have on a permanent basis if she’s willing to stay. Ireland suddenly seems so much more appealing than it did before and she is faced with a dilemma: will she stay in Ireland where things are finally working out for her, or will she return to her husband in Brooklyn?
Brooklyn is about the immigrant experience and about finding oneself. It is like the period in which in is set, the 1950s: sweet and innocent and so much different from what life is like now. Like all art movies, it is for a “niche” audience, so it’s not for everybody. If you’re looking for laughs or thrills, you won’t find them here, unless it’s the thrill of solid storytelling.
Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp