Directed by John Crowley
Based on the Colm Tóibín novel of the same name and with a screenplay crafted by Nick Hornby, Brooklyn is a lush drama of love set amidst the promise and bustle of 1950’s New York City.
Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is a young Irish woman who leaves behind her mother and sister to set sail for a better life in New York. Her new home is a Brooklyn boarding house occupied by other young women and presided over by the strict but kindly Mrs Kehoe (hilariously played by Julie Walters). Eilis’s job as an upmarket department store clerk is far removed from her humble life back in Ireland, and she is plagued with homesickness. When she meets a young Italian man at a local dance, she begins to put down roots and settle into her new life, but a family tragedy pulls her back to Ireland and she is divided between the old and the new.
Brooklyn is a window into the lives of independent women of the time, albeit scrubbed clean of any real hardship. Less a story of triumph over adversity than a portrayal of the wills and desires of a young woman, it is hard not to be affected by the turmoil of the choices Eilis must make. Ronan brings honesty and warmth to her role, making a convincing heroine worthy of her Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
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The story of Irish immigration to the United States appears to have struck a chord, as the BBC has a Brooklyn television series in the works, with Julie Walters to reprise her role as the boarding house matriarch. The adaptation to TV should allow for wider storytelling, and promises to be as delightful as the film.