It’s the age-old dream of many: move to New York and start a life there. It’s a magical, monumental fairytale. A childhood dream of millions. But those brave enough to pack up their bags and head across the Atlantic to the City of Dreams know full well how difficult it really is. And so is the plot of Brooklyn, a BBC film released in 2015.
Brooklyn is based in both Ireland and New York, following the journey of Irish immigrant Eilis Lace, played masterfully by Saoirse Ronan, who leaves her mother and elder sister to make a life for herself in the Big Apple. Eilis, a clever young girl in 1950s Ireland, is first seen moving away from her family feeling conflicted. She is shy, anxious and naive about the world and life itself.
When she gets to New York, it’s not all it first seemed. Homesick almost to the point of returning home, we watch the naieve young girl turn wholly into a woman as she begins to come out of her shell. This is after she meets Tony, an American-Italian living in Brooklyn. They met at a dance hall – how very 1950s.
Brooklyn perfectly captures the era in its costumes and in its portrayal of the courtship between Eilis and Tony. It is respectful, tentative, charming and heart-warming. It’s decent and sweet and everything that modern-day match-making lacks. And, when Eilis has to return home after a family tragedy, the portrayal of ‘home’ and the meaning of home is so striking it applies to any decade of any era.
Soon enough in Brooklyn, the loveable Eilis has to choose between her past in Ireland and her potential future in New York with Tony. It is a gut-wrenching decision, showing the conflict of obligations to home and family with the heart and one’s obligations to it.
With the sweetest of screenplay writing by Nick Hornby, Brooklyn is one of those films you just have to love. It has you laughing, crying and identifying with it all at once. There’s a charm about Brooklyn – mostly from the clothes and the incredible acting of Saoirse Ronan – that explains exactly why this film was nominated for three Academy Awards. It is special.