Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Brooklyn (4 Stars)

This is an epic romantic drama, based on the award-winning novel with the same name by Colm Toibin. It tells the tale of a young Irish girl torn between two countries and two lovers.

In 1951 Eilis Lacey, an Irish girl in her late teens, gets an opportunity to move to America. An Irish priest has found her a job and is sponsoring her visa. She immediately accepts the opportunity, despite criticism that she is leaving her older sister Rose to take care of her widowed mother. At first she feels very homesick in Brooklyn, but she soon settles in, working hard in a department store and taking evening classes in bookkeeping. She even finds a boyfriend, an Italian boy called Tony Fiorello.

A year later news arrives of Rose's death. Eilis decides to go back to Ireland for a few weeks to console her mother. Worried that she might not come back, Tony insists that they get married before she leaves.

Back in Ireland the world looks different. Before leaving Ireland seemed lonely and primitive. Now it looks beautiful in contrast to the ugly streets of Brooklyn. She begins to flirt with Jim Farrell, the owner of a pub, who has been given a large house by his parents. Instead of returning to America she takes a job in a local office. America is so far away, she doesn't need to tell anyone she's married, does she?

The film's story is simple, but it's breathtaking in its simplicity. There are dazzling performances by Saoirse Ronan (Eilis), Domhnall Gleeson (Jim) and Emory Cohen (Tony). Although I can't condone Eilis' infidelity I felt deep sympathy for her. She was a young girl overwhelmed by arriving in a big new world. She fell in love with the first man she met. It's true that Tony was charming, but he was far below her level intellectually. She could have done better for herself. The marriage was definitely a mistake. It wasn't love that made Tony propose to her, it was his insecurity. Eilis needed time away from him to decide what she wanted, but the marriage robbed her of the chance to make a decision.

The film also excels in its portrayal of life in the 1950's in the two countries.I admit that I wasn't alive at that time, but the scenes seem so realistic, like I was really there. It's a beautiful film, difficult to criticise in any way.

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