An Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) in 1950s New York moves to an all-female boarding house owned by the tenacious Ms. Kehoe (Julie Walters), falls for a tough Italian plumber named Tony (Emory Cohen) but faces temptation from another man named Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) when she returns to her homeland for a visit to attend to a family emergency.
I got to see this film as part of the Canadian Film Institute’s 30th European Union Film Festival. This day was Ireland’s turn so what better film to represent it than Brooklyn. What was also interesting that it was the premiere of the film in Ottawa (where I’m also from). As with most films based on books, I haven’t read the book and my opinion will be based on that. So the plot of the film is fairly simple and consists of an Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey (Ronan) who arrives in New York to an all-female boarding house run by a wisecracking old woman named Ms. Kehoe (Walters) and a job at a fashion store run by a woman named Ms. Fortini (Jessica Paré). She also falls in love with an Italian plumber (not Mario) named Tony (Cohen). When tragedy strikes Eilis’ family, she must return to Ireland and once she returns, she meets another man, an Irish man, named Jim Ferrell (Gleeson) who provides further temptation forcing her to choose between her homeland and her adopted land. The first impression I got was how beautiful the film was. From Eilis’s homeland of Ireland to the streets of 1950’s New York, there was a lot to see here. I found the scenes in Ireland to be more vibrant and colorful and the scenes in New York look a little more gritty and realistic. What really stood out were Eilis’s costumes as they made her stand out from the world she was in and really helped us see how little she when juxtaposed with where she way and really emphasized her innocence and how new she was to where she was. It was fun to watch her experience all these things for the first time as she has never known anything other than in her native Ireland. Her innocence just added to this. She doesn’t know any better as a person and this just made her interaction with the characters she comes across more entertaining. This is because of the good script. If I were to compare the story and the dialogue, I would say that the better of the two is the dialogue. I thought the dialogue was very smart and witty and also played on the clash of cultures prominent in the 1950s setting. The story wasn’t bad per se but a few weird logical moments in the middle rendered it on a slightly lower level than the dialogue. What sold me however was all of the acting, especially by Ronan. Ronan plays the innocent and naive character very well and you can believe in what she is experiencing. Walters was a delight as the wise-cracking landlady Ms. Keogh as she was the film’s comic relief. Cohen was okay as the love interest, Tony, and his scenes with Eilis were okay but this was really Ronan’s film and she managed to hold my interest for the under two hour running time. Overall, people may think that it’s a romance but this is just a beautiful journey of personal discovery that doesn’t come around real often.