Today, more so than ever, immigration is a hot topic and is affecting the lives of so many people, similar to when Irish and Italian people migrated to the USA, exactly what the 2015 release of Brooklyn charts. How fitting it has come at exactly the right time. If there were ever a time, it was now, because Brooklyn, a film based on the book of the same name by Colm Tóibín, delivers a realistic sort of escapism, where the historical retrospection is perfect and the storyline utterly raw with an ever-present happy ending.
Brooklyn revolves around a young female Irish immigrant named Eilis Lacey trying to come to terms with life in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s, by assimilating with the culture, finding love, and creating a future for herself. Yet the past retains its grip on her, as the hope of seeing loved ones again, as well as the comfort of her hometown, cannot let her mentally embrace the future that awaits her, leaving her doubtful as to which life to choose. Two very different kinds of love await; a love for a parent and a boyfriend, guiding her discreetly to her decision.
By focusing on both the busy urban streets of New York as well as the homely villages of Ireland, Brooklyn manages to give its audience a genuine slice of life from the past. From the cultural stereotypes of each nationality, to the thriving importance of religion as a lifestyle, to the codes of travel and communication, Brooklyn is every bit a fantastic reflection of history as it is emotionally entertaining. It is a small and petite film, yet Brooklyn is buzzing with immense detail, intricately giving it a profound wealth of authenticity, yet it does this without feeling forced, always remaining a controlled insight. This unassuming depiction of history gives great impact to the everyday life of an immigrant attempting to settle into a new way of life and culture, and enhances this tale of affection to the point where there is so much to indulge in.
“The romance between Eilis and Tony is so raw, naked and natural that their love easily finds Brooklyn at its best”
As soon as Eilis heads for New York, we begin to feel the shackles of loneliness and homesickness weighing her down, unable to release herself from the desire to see her family, yet also eager to start a new life. Compound the drama of being an immigrant with the fact that Eilis finds herself romantically swayed by Italian American Tony Fiorello in New York, then upon the tragic death of a loved one returns to Ireland and is pursued by compatriot Jim Farrell. One needs to mention that the situation Eilis is in naturally breed’s drama, but the romance between Eilis and Tony is so raw, naked, and natural that their love easily finds Brooklyn at its best.
Saoirse Ronan stars as Eilis, and delivers a determined, yet utterly sensitive portrayal that when called upon to show some feistiness she broadens her shoulders and makes her presence felt. When asked to show emotion, she succeeds greatly in reaching our core, especially during the 5 or 6 scenes in which she has to bawl her eyes out. I think it is safe to say her performance in this film makes her a definite nominee for Best Actress come February. Emory Cohen’s portrayal of Tony is perhaps a greater achievement than Ronan’s, for he blissfully captures her heart with pure tenderness. Their romance can be described as one of the great fictional love stories in recent memory.
“One of the great fictional love stories in recent memory”
The camera-work is utterly vital in translating this powerfully poignant and authentic adaptation to the big screen. The fast intercutting during the vibrant conversational moments give Brooklyn a narrative density, yet the camera likes to linger for long periods to heighten the emotion and extend its gravitas through the cinema screens and into our hearts. Every emotion is palpable in this beautifully constructed film that makes you laugh, smile, cry, worry, and pretty much immerses us into the situation Eilis finds herself in, experiencing her new-found freedom as if we were right there with her. Brooklyn is so realistic that anything it attempts to cover retains the ability to move us, making the experience utterly worthwhile for anyone willing to be moved by a story so universal.
Magically intimate in its romantic storytelling thanks to the marvellous Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen, as well as fascinating in an historical sense, Brooklyn is a near faultless adaptation of a remarkable tale.