Brooklyn (2015) Analysis

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.

Oldboy (2003) Review

I remember hearing about Oldboy all the time. Usually it is presented as the standard for revenge movies, where the main character goes through a long and difficult journey to get justice against those people who wronged him or her. I think I lumped it together with Fight Club and Donnie Darko in the “dark and well-made movies for guys” category. Oldboy existed on the fringes of my perception until last Sunday when Devin Faraci and Amy Nicholson talked about the film on their podcast, The Canon.

Oldboy is the story of Oh Dae-Su, a man who is locked in a room for 15 years by a mysterious figure. Oh Dae-Su escapes from his cage and decides to get revenge on the guy who stole 15 years of his life. Over the course of his journey, Oh Dae-Su hurts a lot of people, gets hurt himself and eventually tracks down the man responsible for his imprisonment.

Oldboy is awesome. The film is based on a manga and watching it reminded me of reading a really superb comic book. The director Park-Chan Wook is adept at mixing humor with dark material. One memorable scene depicts Oh Dae-Su ordering his first meal after escaping. He orders “anything alive” and devours a live octopus. Watching Oh Dae-Su stuff the living octopus into his mouth was hilarious but also tragic for the octopus. The scene cuts back and forth between Oh Dae-Su eating and the waitress watching him with horror, revealing the indifference of Oh Dae-Su’s personality. He is the kind of guy who will do anything to get what he wants without considering how his actions affect other people.

The action scenes in Oldboy are another highlight. One scene shows Oh Dae-Su beating up a team of bad guys as if he exists in a side-scrolling video game. Describing this scene will not do it justice. It’s refreshing to see an action scene filmed this way because I am so used to the typical editing in other action movies. I can’t think of a better way to film this scene. If you have ever seen a style like this used in another movie, please let me know.

I don’t know why it took me this long to watch Oldboy. The film reminded me why I like watching movies, especially those that come from different cultures. Don’t be stupid like me. I am sure that I will watch Oldboy at least one more time and hopefully have more to write about it.