This is a story that has been told many times before but rarely with such appeal and sensitivity. Brooklyn relates some of the fears, hopes and the harsh realities that immigrants have encountered for centuries when starting life anew in a foreign land. It is also about rebuilding relationships, building trust and faith, understanding and adapting to new cultural influences and learning to live a life independent of all embracing family ties. The migrant experience is one familiar to millions who have breasted the shores of the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many other countries.
Whether driven from their homelands by war, famine, persecution, lack of opportunity, for love or purely for the search of fame and fortune, Brooklynwill undoubtedly stir the memories of those who have undertaken this brave journey. For some, it may also cast new light and understanding on the expectations, fears and hopes of forebears who immigrated many years ago, particularly to the land which at the time beckoned with the greatest opportunities of all; the USA.
Brooklyn is adapted from the novel by Colm Toibin and set in 1951 Brooklyn, New York. It is a vibrant, engaging story seen through the eyes of Eilis Lacey; a beautiful young, fresh-faced Irish woman with an endearing innocence and naivety. Lacey is played by Saorise Ronan and it is hard to imagine another person more suited to this role. Her performance is delicate, utterly convincing yet understated and nuanced at every turn.
For the first half hour of Brooklyn we follow the travails of Lacey from life at home with her mother and sister in the small village of Enniscorthy in south east Ireland through to the momentous decision to leave behind potential suitors, family and a seemingly predictable future for the broader and uncertain adventure offered by New York. In New York we meet Mrs Kehoe; a tough, no nonsense boarding house landlady with a devilish sense of humour played by the evergreen Julie Walters. Mrs Kehoe is the rock of stability in a sea of uncertainty for Lacey. Further solace is found in the encouragement and support provided by Father Flood, played by Jim Broadbent.
The local dance arranged by Father Flood provides the turning point in the story for it is here amid entertaining social timidity and awkwardness that romance begins to blossom and where we meet Tony, played by Emory Cohen. The son of Italian immigrants, Tony is a brash, loud New Yorker with a large equally loud, extroverted family where everyone’s business is common knowledge.
An apprentice plumber by trade Tony appears to be the antithesis of Lacey; the new world versus the old. A cultural gulf with no obvious bridge. With great sensitivity however they come to understand one another and appreciate their differences and so a romance tentatively begins and eventually flourishes.
The casting of Emory Cohen as Tony to counterpoint Eilis Lacey completes the superb attention to detail in this beautifully crafted film. Their relationship grows and diminishes then blooms anew as the many social and cultural pressures and adjustments are made, including the pull to return to the certainty and familiarity of Ireland where another romance beckons.
Brooklyn is a deeply satisfying film and is highly recommended. It is a film that has it all; an excellent screenplay, a cast made in heaven, superb direction and storyline that many can readily identify with.
Director: John Crowley. Running time: 1hr 11minutes.
Released USA November 2015. DVD available March 2016.
Nominated for Academy Award (Best Picture) and winner of BAFTA Award for Best British Film.
Produced by Wildgaze Films, BBC Films and Parallel Film Productions