29 Apr - 5 May 2016 #806


Adapted from a novel by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn is a charming, beautifully shot film
Sophia Pande

Sometimes a film can creep up on you and really surprise you with its heft, coming suddenly out of nowhere and becoming a favourite. Of the eight films nominated this past season in the ‘Best Picture’ category by the Academy, many have shown themselves to be little gems that are more profound than the usual heavy hitters that populate this exceedingly competitive but increasingly disappointing category. Many of these nominees have been previously, positively reviewed in this column each finding a niche in my heart for their own special qualities.

The same has happened most recently with Brooklyn, a charming, beautifully shot film, adapted from a novel by Colm Tóibín of the same name, about a lovely, bright, young Irish girl, Eilis Lacy (Saoirse Ronan) who is forced to leave her mother and sister to move to Brooklyn to find work.

The plot, set at the beginning of the 1950s, when summarised, is deceptively simple: Eilis (which is pronounced Ailish in Gaelic), who is brilliant at mathematics, quickly moves away from the swanky department store job that is waiting for her, organised courtesy of a kindly Catholic priest, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), and becomes qualified as a book-keeper.

Her sister Rose’s (Fiona Glascott) letters keep her heart full of Ireland and her family, and she slowly makes friends at her boarding house despite deep homesickness. When Eilis meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), a big hearted, adorably articulate Italian American from Long Island, it seems her integration into the new world record is complete.

Of course, that is not all that the universe, well Tóibín the writer, has in store for young Eilis. Brooklyn is indeed a coming of age story, but unlike most in the genre, it is a subtle, deep one that does not hit you over the head with needless melodrama. Brooklyn is also a story about finding one’s place and finally belonging, a condition that is almost always linked to both home and family.

Eilis’s story is not a new one, in fact, it is a story that is repeated the world over in this time of financial instability, conflict, forced migration, and of course natural disaster. Brooklyn therefore, is not a film that is self-indulgent nor is it just a romantic tale told to glorify the possibility of making your own destiny in the United States. Instead it is a story of personal fortitude, family ties, grace, and humour under adversity, and finally, a love story that endures over the ages.

Eilis and Tony may not be the heroes that Hollywood so often sells to the masses, but their lives are made riveting by their humanity, their families, and their ties, ultimately, to Brooklyn.