I cannot imagine anyone watching this film and wanting anything but good for all the characters. They are all so likeable. John Crowley (Closed Circuit, Boy A) has presented us with a stable of characters that wear their hearts on their sleeves and are so good that you just want to shelter them from all the hard parts of life. As such time seems to stand still while you are watching the film. So enjoyable and easy a watch that you could go on watching for hours and hours. A high compliment for any film.
The film takes place in the 50s and really leans heavily on the romantic tone of films from that era. It is equal parts beautiful to look at, naïve, heartwarming, simple, and restrained. A simple film told in a superior way.
Yes, this is a film about a young girl leaving her small town in Ireland to come to a big city in America in the 1950s, but really it is about immigration in a large and non-specific sense. At its essence this is not an Irish film, rather it is a film about that tough decision to leave your home to strike out somewhere new looking for a better life. As a result much about the film has that rather universal feeling to it. Most people in North America can relate to this on some level (either they or their parents or grandparents emigrated to this part of the world).
The centre of the film is Saoirse Ronan. She well deserves her Best Actress nomination as she carries the film on her shoulders as she is pretty much in every scene. Her director obviously trusts the actress and her talent implicitly because there are numerous tight close-ups where she has to act with only her face and eyes. Ronan manages to convey everything required of her without saying much at times. This is the type of star vehicle that film was made for. She gained notice as a child actor and now, with film choices like Brooklyn, she is successfully making the leap into becoming an accomplished adult actress.
Eilis (Saoirse Ronan – Atonement, The Grand Budapest Hotel) is a young woman living in a small town in Ireland. She lives with her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott – from television’s Episodes) and mother (Jane Brennan – Veronica Guerin, Intermission). It is decided that she really has no future in Ireland and so Rose contacts Father Flood (Jim Broadbent – Gangs of New York, Moulin Rouge!), who lives in Brooklyn, New York and he sponsors and finds a job for Eilis.
Once there, living in an all-girls boardinghouse run by the strict Mrs. Keogh (Julie Walters – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Brave) and working as a shop girl, Eilis suffers from terrible homesickness. She begins taking night bookkeeping courses at Brooklyn College and attending some Irish events. At one she meets an Italian young man named Tony (Emory Cohen – The Place Beyond the Pines).
They fall quickly in love and life is looking up for Eilis. New York seems to be becoming home for her. A family tragedy changes everything and causes Eilis to have to travel back to Ireland. Once there she falls back into the rhythm of small town life and she even meets a potential suitor in Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson – The Revenant, Ex Machina). A tough decision has to be made by Eilis about where she considers home to be.
This is a different kind of romance. Not only between people, but also between a young woman and a country or different culture. The relationship that develops between Eilis and America mirrors that with Tony in that it is calm, hesitant and nuanced. It shows us that not being able to go home again does not necessarily mean sadness.
An unabashed old-fashioned film that will have you sighing and smiling throughout.