It’s been a good minute since I’ve last been here. I haven’t checked the exact day but it’s probably been about a year. Isn’t that insane? We’re all another year older, wiser, and more desperate for those unique talents that will get us ahead in the job market. Oh. Is that just me? Nevermind then.
I’m actually just sat here, contemplating a film I’ve just watched. I saw it by myself (such the socialite) so, not really having anyone to share my thoughts with, I thought I’d share them with you.
Brooklyn, directed by John Crowley, is actually the film adaptation of the novel by the same name, written by Colm Tóibín. I have not yet read the novel so all comments hereafter shall be solely about the film.
It is the story of a young Irish immigrant in the 1950’s who leaves her family behind in pursuit of a more promising future. Prior to watching Brooklyn, I assumed that she (Eilis Lacey) left Ireland because of hardship, destitution, or some other major event that might cause her to seek refuge in America. To my surprise, Eilis’ immigration to the U.S. was arranged by her sister, Rose. Rose set things up for Eilis, not because they were poor or in any kind of trouble, but because she wanted to see her sister happy, and she thought there was a higher chance of that in America than in the small town environment they lived in.
The first quarter of the film holds all the magic for me. First off, I just want to mention that the cinematography in on point throughout. Brooklyn is beautifully shot and Saoirse Ronan (who plays Eilis) has the perfect face for a film like this – expressively clear. But the reason why the first quarter really does it for me is it says so much by saying very little. Let me explain. Eilis is in a country she doesn’t want to be in–she knows no one and her daily routine consists of waking up, going to work, repeat. She has a job at the department store but is extremely withdrawn. She won’t speak to her coworkers and has a hard time conversing with customers. Even at the boardinghouse where she lives with a bunch of other women, she says very little. You can imagine, then, that the dialogue in the first half is very little. It is the visual scenes that steal the spotlight. We feel the awkward silence, the homesickness.
These moments of imposed introspection for Eilis are punctuated by letters from Rose. Eilis lives for these letters– they are her only connection to her family back home. They tear her apart yet keep her moving through the monotonous days. It’s heart-wrenching to watch, and just when I thought I couldn’t possibly feel more sorry for her, an Irish gentleman had to go sing one of the saddest songs I’ve heard in my life. In what is hands-down my favorite scenes in the movie (albeit still very sad) Eilis volunteers at a Christmas dinner for elderly Irish men who immigrated to America years ago. She can’t comprehend, in her homesickness, why they’ve remained all these years when Ireland is just across the sea. The answer she’s given is that there is no one there for them to return to. While she stews in the depression of that answer, a man with the voice of an angel stands up to sing a song that I can only assume is in Gaelic. Literally the saddest thing ever and I have no idea what he was saying. If the looks on the faces of the other Irish men (and Eilis) was any indication, it had everything to do with that depressing answer Eilis had just been given.
The pace of the film picks up once Eilis meets and falls in love with Tony Fiorello (played by Emory Cohen), the son of Italian immigrants also living in Brooklyn. Eilis becomes happier and finally starts to live her life as an American. Her transformation is so completely evident, both emotionally and physically. However, when tragedy strikes, she returns to Ireland to be with her family. Tony, bless him, is appropriately worried that when she leaves America, she won’t return because, as he put it, “Home is home”. When she assured him that she would return, I believed her. What I was not expecting was for her to go home and then immediately become so completely entranced by the world that Ireland could offer her. It’s like the moment she arrived back on Irish soil, a world of possibilities opened up–she would never have to return to America if she didn’t want to.
Sadly, it is the end of the film that I was least convinced by. I loved this film, I really do, but I was so confused by Eilis’ actions once she arrived in Ireland. They frustrated me, and while I could understand why she was doing what she was doing, I could not understand how she could. I’ll try to be as vague as possible so as not to ruin the film for anyone who wants to see it (and I encourage everyone to!) but, it made me angry that it took a two minute conversation with a universally despicable character for Eilis to make a decision. It was so abrupt! Where was the romance? Where was a consideration of Tony? It’s funny that Eilis’ romance with Tony is the thing that pulls her out of her shell and helps her to enjoy life, yet it is the most overlooked aspect in this film. After watching the almost two hour long movie, I don’t think I can really tell you much about Eilis’ and Tony’s relationship. I love him as a character – he’s so kind and sweet – but I have no idea why he likes Eilis or why she likes him for that matter. Their entire romance is written as stolen moments, it feels like, with very little of the whole picture.
Overall though, great film. Absolutely loved it. The actors were well cast– stunning performances, all of them.I’ll leave a link to the trailer here for those interested. If anyone else has seen it please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below letting me know what you thought. Or, if you have any suggestions for me to watch I’ll take those too :)