This Christmas-release film is not about the New York stock exchange. Nor is it about corrupt priests, revenge, murder, transsexuality, or discrimination. Brooklyn is a chick flick. A really sweet, heartfelt romance that’ll make you say, “These aren’t tears… I have allergies… Shut up.”
Brooklyn begins in a place famous for being a place famous for nothing: Enniscorthy, Ireland. My spellcheck has never heard of it either. Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is a young girl from Enniscorthy who lives with her mother, her older sister, and a terrible sense of unimportance. Thankfully for Eilis, her sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott), thinks life could offer her so much more, so she contacts a priest in Brooklyn and sets Eilis up with a job and a boarding house. It tears Eilis apart (and those of us watching) to leave home, but life soon makes a turn for the better when she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a local Italian boy. Eilis goes from weeping rivers to singing in the rain – until an emergency calls her back to Ireland. Now Eilis has to choose between the place that welcomes her and the place she is told she belongs.
It’s inspiring to watch Eilis find her way. While she is not without the help of others, no one can deny that on her journey to the moon she struck a lucky cloud. Brooklyn flows between the sad and the happy, but both seasons are portrayed very effectively. You laugh when they laugh and cry when she cries. No emotion (as many as there are) feels forced or insincere. Eilis goes from having no future to having too many options, all of which seem potentially prosperous. But whichever path Eilis chooses, the others will disappear behind her — and there are no second chances. No one has needed a diary more than poor, conflicted Eilis.
What Eilis does have, however, is a tag team of boarding house gals and one mistress whose morels perch steadfastly between a bible and a cup of tea. Mrs. Keogh (Julie Walters), or “Q” as I originally thought, is both supportive of the girls’ choices and a highly trained buzz kill. She’s a delight. Across from her sit a small group of young, single women whose only focus in life is finding that swell lookin’ husband. They include the ditsy duo of Diana (Eve Macklin) and Patty (Emily Bett Rickards). These two are essentially present to teach Eilis how to properly apply lipstick and make dinner more fun with a side serving of giggles.
The only real enemy that Eilis faces in Brooklyn is the one she meets as soon as she leaves Ireland. Homesickness is as bad as any virus, especially when phone calls are only possible via appointment. As soon as Eilis starts to recognize Brooklyn as a home, she’s dragged back to her former life where, surprisingly, she actually fits in quite well. We shake our heads at Eilis’ missteps but it’s hard to blame her when the town is so eager to drag her back in. It’s hard to say “no” when home offers you a fine future on a silver platter.
Next to Saoirse Ronan’s tears and smirks we have the beautiful setting of old Brooklyn and older Ireland. Whether it is rain or sunbeams, the colours and sets fill us (and Eilis) with a sense of hope, happiness, and claustrophobic despair. Brooklyn takes a beautiful story and envelops it in cobbled streets, cardigans, and pearl necklaces, pulling us towards the wistful and the authentic. That, tied with a magically perfect score, adds another layer to this heartrending adventure in doubt.
It was a refreshing change from the melodrama of Oscar season to see Brooklyn. It is a charming movie with romance, fear, opportunity, and family. It actually reminds me of The Notebook, except with more ambition and a higher respect for conversation. Brooklyn is sweet, funny, compassionate, and a perfect divide between a happy future in a comfortable place versus an exciting future in an unstable one. Brooklyn is your next girls’ night sigh-fest at 8.5/10.