Brooklyn is a 1950’s period piece with beautiful settings in Brooklyn and Ireland. Based on a 2009 novel, by Irish author Colm Toibin, the plot focuses on a young Irish girl, Eilis Lacey’s (Saoirse Ronan) journey from Ireland to Brooklyn, New York. Eilis chooses to immigrate under the sponsorship of the Catholic Church because she has no opportunities in Ireland. In Ireland, her older sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott), has a good job as a bookkeeper and encourages Eilis to go. Rose willingly stays behind with their widowed mother.
The fundamental theme of the movie is the conflicting emotional pull of home versus the rational understanding that new beginnings in a foreign country present the possibility but not the guarantee of a better future. Eilis begins life in America living in a boarding house and working as a sales clerk in a large department store. Her homesickness is assuaged when she meets an Italian American plumber, Anthony “Tony” Fiorello (Emory Cohen).
The plot twist in Brooklyn is that once Eilis has begun to establish a new life in America, she is presented with the opportunity to build a life rich with possibilities in Ireland. The question for Eilis is which will she choose: America (representing risk and the unknown) or Ireland (representing tradition and long-term emotional connections)?
Brooklyn is drenched in fifties culture and provides an exquisite view of the possibilities or lack-their-of for unmarried, young women in both Ireland and America. Marriage to a man with a future is the safest road to a secure future but education that provides a skill is another pathway. Brooklyn captures the transformation of one young woman through a transition of clothes and hair styles from an insecure newcomer to a self-assured young woman who has chosen her own future.
The brightness of Eilis’s future shines through in a movie leaving this viewer feeling better about the world.
A transformed Eilis returning to Ireland