MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by John Crowley. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson.
Brooklyn, based on an acclaimed novel by Irish author Colm Tóibin, tells the simple and moving story of Eilis Lacey (Ronan), a young woman from a small Irish village who has the opportunity to travel to America to find work and make a future for herself.
Eilis loves her family but also realizes that her options are limited in a working class town. A visiting Irish priest (the always wonderful Jim Broadbent) now living in Brooklyn has arranged the trip, including overseas travel, lodging in a boardinghouse for working women, and a job in a department store. Her family encourages her to grasp this opportunity and – with tears in her eyes – Eilis boards the ship for the eventful and nausea-inducing days at sea.
Arriving in the United States in the early 1950s, Eilis is self-determined and able to make friends, deal with a few bumps in the road, and even meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) a charming Italian-American boy who quickly becomes smitten with this Irish lass. He brings her home to meet his family in a scene that is (according to critic A. O. Scott) “one meatball away from being complete ethnic stereotypes”, but with characters so generous and kind they are able to dismiss the common animosity that existed between Italian and Irish immigrants at that time.
Eilis is a complicated woman and Saoirse Ronan communicates her vulnerability and uncertainty at every junction. Her heart is still at home in Ireland, but she also understands the possibilities for her in America. Throughout this simple story, we see Eilis taking one step forward and two steps back. Love of family and a strong moral core guide her decisions, which are never easy.
Novelist Nick Hornby’s script is a good one, with much humor and witty observations. The period details are spot-on and the cast is superb. But this is clearly Ronan’s picture and she carries it on her shoulders, since she is in every scene. She is a gifted actress who is bound to win many deserved accolades for this role.
I was disappointed to see the theater entirely filled with older adults who enjoyed reliving the sights and sounds of the 50s. This film has many young and gifted actors but we seem to be living at a time when stories of the recent past are seen as movies for older adults. The church at its best is a place where many generations should gather to listen to each other’s stories. Hopefully, some families with older children will take the time to visit Brooklyn and enjoy another era as well as the common problems and decisions that young adults of any period of time will have to face.
Four halos: A beautiful and evocative coming of age story.
Two pitchforks: PG-13 swearing; a scene of sexual congress, discreetly filmed.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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