Brooklyn

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

(M) Starring Saoirse Ronan, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Emory Cohen

Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is searching for a life outside her small-town Irish existence. The shores of America beckon her to leave behind all that is familiar to this young and naive Irish shop girl. With the blessing of her family, she sails to the new world in the foreboding New York City or specifically, Brooklyn. On arrival to this land of promise, she travels through the struggles of homesickness, adjusting to a strange culture and developing relationships.

After beginning a new job and adjusting to life in a boarding house, she is introduced to Tony (Emory Cohen) at a dance at the local church. This young Italian plumber is captivated by the understated, but beautiful Eilis. As their relationship grows and her newfound life flourishes, a family tragedy back in Ireland means Eilis has to return home. She is quickly confronted with the decision to remain in her former homeland or to return to the life that she has come to love in New York City.

They do not make films like this anymore. That’s a loaded statement to either provoke hope in your heart, or cause you to groan.

But in the case of Brooklyn, your response should be positive. This old-fashioned romance drama provides a joyful hope for cinema.It’s a refreshing film that shows the possibilities of beginning a new life in America. It also is a visual experience that proves to be a light in the exceptionally dark room of dystopian storytelling that pervades modern cinema.

In comparison to the pacing of most modern films, Brooklyn is more methodical and linear, but this adds to the fresh depiction of the Irish-American tale. Also, the church, marriage and family are unapologetically held as positive agents within the transitions of Eilis’s life.

Director John Crowley bravely steers his relatively unknown cast. Ronan is perfect in the role of Eili, proving she is maturing as an actress and has moved past her teen roles. She is surrounded by a stellar support cast that complement each step of the journey. There are so many supporting characters that deserve mention, but the two worth highlighting are the Academy-Award winning Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge) and Julie Walters (the Harry Potter series).

Broadbent gives a journeyman’s performance as Father Flood and proves to be another brave director’s choice. His priest is a pillar of the Irish community, as well as one of the positive forces in the life of this young female immigrant. His grace and genuine support are a refreshing positive look at the role of clergy in the community.

Walters adds the necessary spice to the role of head mistress of a boarding house. She’s an adoptive mother to Eilis and the other girls. She represents the needed conscience for the young boarders in their journey to becoming Americans and mature women. The rest of the cast is perfectly woven together to enrich this journey and provide the colour to piece together the beautiful tapestry that is Brooklyn.

This outing is a throw-back experience that fills a gaping hole in modern cinema. With the continual negative focus on the lives and influences of immigrants in the media, this is a fresh and honest portrayal of a young immigrant that results in a beautiful story of new beginnings. Brooklyn deserves a high recommendation and is worth seeking out and enjoying with someone you love.

What are some of the bigger ideas to consider from this film?

The loss of innocence is a term that leads to various expectations, but Brooklyn provides a journey in a young woman’s life that shows maturation without the loss of her spirit. Crowley is able to show that the reason Eilis is able to grow into a strong woman of character is because of how she was raised and the influence of her family and the Irish community. She does not always make the right choices, but the undergirding of her faith and family allows her to find her feet in the most challenging of situations. Even as she attempts to leave her former life behind, the past influences her more than she would have expected and adds a richness to her new life.

Questions to consider

  1. What does the Bible say about the value of marriage? (Genesis 2:24, Proverbs 18:22)
  2. How should legal immigrants be treated? (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:33-34)
  3. Does the Bible talk of the value of the church within a community? (Hebrews 10:24-25)