Directed by – John Crowley
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), and Best Screenplay based on Previously Published Material (Nick Hornby)
By E. P. Whinters
On the outside, Brooklyn seems like a simple love story – a young Irish girl immigrates to America in the 1950s, falls in love and needs to choose between her home in Ireland or her home in America. Or so the trailers lead us to believe. And it is about this, but there’s more to it.
This film gets the viewer to reflect on ‘home’ – what makes one place home over another? Is it your bed that you lie in, reflecting on life? Is it the kitchen table where you gather with family and friends and share a meal? Is it where you feel you ‘fit in’? Is it being with people you love and who love you in return? The director looks at all of these, from different angles, and his answer includes an answer to these questions, and more.
Saoirse Ronan, who plays Eilis Lacey, is wonderful in the role. It was easy to get drawn into her innocence, her fears and uncertainties, while at the same time, as innocent as she was, she was also very forthright and straightforward in her perception of the world around her. The expression in her eyes made it easy to guess what she was thinking; what she was feeling. When her eyes welled up with tears, from somewhere came the catch in the viewer’s throat, as it was impossible not to empathize with her. In this empathy with the main character, the story took on a rich tapestry of something real. We might not have emigrated from one country to America, but we have all taken that step into the unknown and wondered if we were doing the right thing. And growing up in our childhood home, sentimental to our childhood and young adult years, there comes a time for us to grow up, to leave the nest, to find another home. And, in this, we are like Eilis.
Brooklyn has a simple air, like we imagine the 1950s. New York was full of ethnic communities – Irish and Italian among many others. There are movies about the gangs at this time, but this movie is not one of them. The director shared the story in three acts: watch the colours he uses. From a rich green (home, Ireland), to gradual changes and splashes of colour, to an explosion of bright, lively hues by the end – yellow, flowers, life. Add similar scenes in different places, and I found myself remembering similar moments in my life, comparing the examples on the screen with the ones I remembered from my life.
I overheard someone say that the characters were flat, and perhaps in a way, all the other characters were. There was little in the way of character arcs, and what there was illuminated small steps, similar to life. This was not their story, but Eilis’s, and with her there was much to struggle through and grow from. There was a sense of stereotypical portrayal of the characters around her (Italians and their love for baseball and emphasizing what they say with their hands, the Irish love for their home folksongs) and with this, with one character with such depth while the others are as we expect them in some way, it was easy to be swept into her story, fall in love with her and her delightful accent and want her to ‘win’ in the end.
It is obvious that I enjoyed the movie; to enter into another’s story – simple by a lot of accounts – yet the motifs and cinematography that enfolds the viewer’s heart still affects the heart. “This movie is about the search for home and a sense of a place to belong, the weirdness of being caught between the old and the new, the excitement, bittersweet and occasionally an awful feeling in your stomach when you step out in a new direction, mixed with the feelings of what we leave behind, especially when some of what we’re leaving behind was good, but no longer for us anymore,” a friend said after viewing it with me. We’ve gotten to the point where we expect more and more action, and this movie touches the viewer’s heart in a simple, yet profound and powerful way. In the end, in the words of Tony, “Home is home.”
Where is your home? And what makes it ‘home’ for you?