Home is home:
Review of the film Brooklyn

6:26 PM

via BFI

I first watched Brooklyn in April because it was Easter, you want to watch something light and heart-warming; it was also recommended by Duc from the blog 14 Shades of Grey. Normally, I would stay away from a movie deemed last year's "best love story", but I couldn't resist the 50's fashions and the fact that the protagonist is basically me. 


The trailer describes quite well what you'll see in the movie: Eilis, played by the talented and very Irish-sounding Saoirse Ronan, moves from a small town in Ireland to the exciting neighborhood of Brooklyn. Just when she is starting to adjust to her new life, a crisis in the family takes her back to Ireland and there she'll have to decide between two men and two completely different futures.

I’m not sure how most audiences reacted to Eilis' story but, as a person who moved to the US four years ago, it felt very true to me.

Actually, I watched this movie as some people watch the Super Bowl. Will she stay in Ireland or come back to New York? It was as if my life depended on it. As if her choice would validate mine.

More than being a very sweet love story and elegant period piece, Brooklyn accurately describes (part of) the immigrant experience. Characters like Miss Kelly who try to play the guilt card mostly out of jealousy and pettiness, or like Georgina, the experienced immigrant, who gives Eilis several tips on how to act and "think like an American", or like Tony, an immigrant from a different country, who actually likes Irish girls or like his little brother Frankie who openly admits "we don't like Irish people"; all these characters are all too familiar. 

But most real of all are people like Jim who come to you partly with good intentions, partly with their own agenda saying "your life here could be just as good".


Eilis, however, is the most interesting character. Her character goes through a physical and emotional journey that teaches her that being an immigrant isn't really a choice you make once - it's one you make every day. The desire to go back to Ireland may fade but it will always be in the back of her mind. 

There's a lot to love about Brooklyn: the gorgeous cinematography, the 50's fashions, the poignant performances (I dare you not to cry during the Irish Christmas scene). 

But I think it will personally touch those living abroad. At a time when it's not easy to be an immigrant (being an immigrant is by definition hard, but it's scary to watch the rise of xenophobic sentiment both in the US and in Europe not knowing what the next chapter of History will be) Brooklyn sends the reassuring message that the immigrant life, with all its hardships and challenges, is worth it. 

The idea that Eilis could be just as happy in Ireland is, a priori, true. There are tons of happy people in Ireland and tons of unhappy people in Brooklyn. But the problem with staying in Ireland is, as she points out, "I'd imagined a different life for myself". Eilis didn't just change countries, she changed herself. The character who makes a more accurate, though simplistic, assessment, is Tony when he says that "home is home".

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