I heard a little bit of buzz about Brooklyn while it was playing in theaters but not enough to get a clear picture of the movie. Brooklyn is an Irish-Canadian-British drama directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby, based on a novel of the same name. The novel was somewhat successful overseas but not exactly a huge cultural hit in the states. Brooklyn flew under the radar for me in 2015. I began to get a better idea of whether I would like the film when I saw clips of it during the 2015 Oscars. Wow, the protagonist has an Irish accent. Maybe I would enjoy this movie. Well, I enjoyed Brooklyn quite a bit. The following is my analysis of the film and celebration of what makes it great (spoilers lie ahead).
The protagonist of the film is Eilis Lacey, a young woman living in southeast Ireland with her mother and sister. Eilis works on weekends but her boss is mean and Eilis doesn’t really like Irish men because all they do is play rugby so Eilis decides to try her luck in America. She goes to Brooklyn where she lives in a boarding home with other Irish women and works at a department store. At a dance Eilis meets an Italian man named Tony with whom she develops a relationship. At this point life gets a lot better for Eilis because Tony makes her feel like Brooklyn is home. Unfortunately Eilis must go back to Ireland when her sister dies to comfort her mother. This is where the major tension of the story becomes apparent. Eilis finds that Ireland could possibly be a better place to live than America. A very eligible bachelor is interested in her and she is needed to take her sister’s job. It’s possible and perhaps likely that moving back to America would be a mistake. After talking with her old boss, Eilis remembers why she moved to America in the first place, because there are no secrets in Ireland. The film ends with Eilis and Tony reuniting happily.
Eilis is a great character and the primary reason why this film succeeds. I rooted for Eilis the entire film because she is relatable and a good person. She doesn’t smoke or wear makeup be she is respectful, religious and intelligent. She’s the kind of person that raises up the people around her. Tony is not a particularly attractive person but Eilis sees his good nature and that is enough for her. She is also genuine and able to maintain her cool in tough situations. What’s interesting is that despite all her strengths, Eilis’s life is still very difficult. When Eilis finally feels comfortable in America, life throws her a curveball, forcing her to go back to Ireland. When Eilis starts to feel comfortable in Ireland, again life throws another curveball, reminding her why she left in the first place. No matter where Eilis ends up there is going to be good and bad. The question boils down to what Eilis wants personally, not what other people want for her. I think there is value in looking at how Eilis handles the ups and downs of her life.
I also want to touch on this story’s ending. From a filmmaker’s perspective the ending is the most difficult part of the story to create. How a movie ends says a lot about the intentions behind it and how it wants the audience to feel. Brooklyn ends on what appears to be a very happy note with Eilis realizing that she belongs with Tony and the couple embracing in the streets of Brooklyn. The films wants you, the audience member, to leave with a sense of possibility, the feeling that the future is bright for Eilis and Tony. Being the misanthrope that I am, I find it difficult to accept this ending at face value. Eilis is clearly superios to Tony in several ways. She is smarter and will have many more opportunities in life than Tony, who may have great ambitions but I imagine him having difficulty making those ambitions real. The film leaves the possibility of misfortune open. Many people will accept the happy ending because the want to feel happy themselves. I entertain the possibilities of both happy and sad endings to learn more about life.
Brooklyn is certainly a movie worth watching twice or three times. It takes place in the 1950s but its themes and characters can exist in any time period. It is profoundly human and I look forward to watching it again in the future.