Brooklyn: Looking Back, Looking Forward, by Rudie Obias
I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age movie. There’s just something about watching young people discover who they are is just really exciting to see. A good coming-of-age movie usually explores the unknown and a person’s tastes and sexuality, allowing the viewer to find ways to relate their own life story. I also find the idea of forcing yourself out of your comfort zone to find something you didn’t know about yourself really appealing. The film adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s book Brooklyn is a stellar journey that satisfies both impulses, leaving a deep impression on you long after you leave the theater.
Brooklyn follows Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman who immigrated from Ireland to Brooklyn, New York during the 1950s. She’s unable to find long-term work back home, so she sets up passage to America where she’ll have a place to stay and a new job waiting for her. While she’s somewhat excited to start her new life, she’s also scared to leave her mother and older sister behind, but there’s nothing more that her small town can offer her.
I’m absolutely in love with Brooklyn! Director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby have a knack of pacing a film in such a way that even the tedious and mundane activities of everyday life can be engaging to watch. Crowley and Hornby have such a deep understanding of the characters and the story. A lot of the film’s conflict just comes from Eilis trying to find her footing in a foreign land and her loneliness that forces her into activity. Eilis learns that America is very different from Ireland, mainly that Americans are more forthcoming and confident.
She becomes more open to the American way of life and starts to excel in her new home and work life. Eilis even finds a new boyfriend Tony (Emory Cohen), an Italian-American plumber. Eilis and Tony’s budding romance quickly goes from friendship to passionate and part of the main reason why she likes her life in America more so than in Ireland. Unfortunately, a family crisis back home forces Eilis to travel back to Ireland for an undetermined period of time.
The second part of the film is a drastic shift from the first, but Crowley handles it with ease. Brooklyn then focuses on Eilis trying not to get sucked back into her old life in Ireland with potentially a new job, her old friends and family, and a new suitor, Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), who becomes completely infatuated with her. The film never shows its hand with how Eilis will decide the outcome of her life, stay in Ireland with her family or go back to America to her new lover.
Much of Brooklyn’s engagement and interest also comes from Saoirse Ronan’s performance as Eilis. She’s smart, beautiful, and witty, which goes a long way to enjoying the film. I would dare to say that Brooklyn is her best performance in her young career.
Brooklyn is a wonderful film that is completely worth your attention and I consider it one of the best movies of year. It’s a smart and lovely film that really takes a look at the loneliness of living in a new city. The movie also gets how it feels to return home after you’ve built a new life elsewhere. Brooklyn also understands what it means to call a new city and culture your home.