Movie review – Brooklyn

In the post-war 1950s, Ireland was stagnating. Conversely, the US was booming. As a result, around 50,000 Irish emigrated to the Brave New World across the pond, with a quarter of them settling in New York City.

The movie Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Catholic coleen sent away by her loving older sister, to a ready-made job in an Italian department store and to a new life of opportunity.

Desperately homesick initially, she slowly embraces her new environment, helped by Catholic priest Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) and her landlady Mrs Keogh (a scene-stealing Julie Walters).

And then she falls in love, with gentle Italian plumber Tony (Emory Cohen), and nothing will ever be the same again.

But back in Wexford, her sister Rose dies suddenly and Eilis is pulled back to the old country, and to her lonely mother.

From the book by Colm Tóibín, and with a screenplay by Nick Hornby, this is a beautifully told story. Saiorse Ronan perfectly captures the fragile innocence of a young girl transplanted from a limiting, narrow-minded rural community to a thriving cityscape, bursting instead with energy and opportunity.

We see her mature into a confident, ambitious person, quietly comfortable in her own skin. But will she choose her new life, or stay loyal to her Irish roots?

The themes of love, family, home and opportunity often conflict with each other. Ms Ronan deserves her Oscar nomination for portraying those emotions in such a poignant, understated way, although I’m not as sure that the film deserves its own nomination, alongside more worthy competitors The Big Short, Spotlight and Room.

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