“Brooklyn”, nominated for a 2016 Academy Award for best picture in a list of much more intensely themed dramas, is an easy movie to fall in love with. A classic boy-meets-girl coming-of-age movie, set in the early 50s and reminiscent of movies of that era. Two young immigrants meet in Brooklyn and fall in love, yet the young woman still yearns for the country and home she left behind. Based on Colm Toibin’s novel of the same title, “Brooklyn” conveys a specific historical time and worldview but the wounds and dilemmas are universal.
Saoirse Ronan plays Ellis, a young Irish woman who has few options back home in the Green Isle. Adventurous but devoted to her widowed mother and sister, she feels unanchored, desperate to find a more welcoming environment in which to navigate her adulthood. Tender-hearted, gentle, and hesitant in speech, Eilis soon falls in love with a young Italian immigrant whose culture is every bit as new to her as living in Brooklyn.
The film “Brooklyn” is much more than a coming-of-age tale, however. It is a story of choosing between the family one grows up in and the one created as an adult. Brooklyn symbolizes new frontiers of freedom and opportunity with little regard to the economic decision Eilis makes. Eilis must find her own identity while choosing between two value systems and two futures.
Ronan, nominated for Best Actress, (and cast in “Atonement”, “Lovely Bones”, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) gives a stunning performance as the innocence-lost maiden who has to understand what truly is the nature of home. Her moral choices are somewhat predictable but the dilemma is a universal one—choosing another’s happiness over one’s own, deciding on one’s own future first, or trying to have both. This young twenty-two year old actress is a pleasure to watch as she gains confidence one small victory at a time.
The overarching theme is one of possibility (which can be frightening) and independence(which can be depressing and isolating) versus the tradition and comfort of family. The known vs. the unknown. These are universally relatable. Many have to make the decision of what path to take. These aren’t the life-and-death stakes we see typically in the movies but they’re the decisions that often dictate fates. “Brooklyn” is classic!