Brooklyn is worthy of its Best Picture nomination this year, and is one of the most understated, elegant and wrenching stories I’ve seen in a long time.
It’s the story of Eilis, who goes to New York, Brooklyn, in particular to start a new life. The opportunities there are more than her small Irish town have ever afforded her, but it the hardest thing she’s ever done — that anyone will ever do. She leaves behind her sister Rose and her mother, and the most heartbreaking scenes are Rose and Eilis’ conversations as they try to be positive, leaving unsaid the truth — they don’t know when they’ll see each other next.
Eilis struggles in New York, trying to come to terms with leaving her home behind and floundering in a depression that descends over her. Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis as if she were holding herself together with sheer strength of will as she tries to focus on the life she now has. But everything has a breaking point, and it is Eilis’ that leads her to an accounting class and a different future.
With that, her world opens up and she meets Tony, makes friends and begins to live the life she thought she’d always have. Tony is uncomplicated and adoring of her, while her earnest nature and straightforwardness is charming to him. But when tragedy strikes and she has to return to Ireland, we see an Eilis that is skilled at keeping secrets in her small town, never letting anyone know more than they should.
It’s there that the film flounders a little, as it doesn’t quite make her reasons for keeping the secrets of her life in America, especially not from her family and friends. I suppose it’s a matter of Eilis struggling to decide whether to leave or stay, but it doesn’t resonate as much as it should because her reasons are weak ones for the narrative.
Still, a lovely way to spend the afternoon!