One day the sun will come out and you’ll realize that this is where your life is.Brooklyn
Release Date: January 16th, 2016. Dir: John Crowley
Summary: Young Irish immigrant Eilis Lace navigates her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her past disrupts her new vivacity, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.
As this is a Saoirse Ronan movie, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this movie thoroughly. But, aside from the stellar acting, there were several elements that made this movie a beautiful coming of age story that while hitting some familiar elements was still worth watching in every way. There are several aspects to the movie that are clearly very well thought out, starting with the main character, Ellis’s name. Though it’s not pronounced in the same way as Ellis island, they are both spelled the same. Though subtle, this is an indication of Ellis’s immigrant status and maybe foreshadowing of the end of the movie that she is meant to stay in the land of the immigrants.
The first thing that attracted me to this movie was the cinematography. The follows Ellis from Ireland to Brooklyn, New York and the picturization was beautiful. The cinematographer did a wonderful job of contrasting Elli’s clothes to her surroundings. The color palettes upon coming to America were bright and signified the discovery of a new world for Ellis, yet Saoirse’s performance at the beginning contrasted with the bright colors surrounding her. Yet, when Ellis begins to come out of her shell, she becomes as radiant as the colors around her. I thought that this was an interesting portrayal of the newness and opportunity of America. Everything was eye-catching and new, which was much of the appeal of moving to America in the 1950’s.
Another historical element that I liked about this movie was the fact that Ellis and her soon-to-be boyfriend, Tony, were Irish and Italian respectively. Throughout history, they represent the European groups that were most significantly overlooked and disliked in American society. The reason that choosing to focus the story on two immigrants that were from outcasted social groups fascinated me with the portrayal of how they formed a community within America that continues to be prominent today. Historically, if the movie wasn’t going to focus on African-Americans or the Japanese, this was an interesting way to make the story more diverse.
In terms of their love story, I like how there was no physical conflict. It’s a very pure love story, which is very reflective of the times. Everything seemed easier in the fifties and this movie seems to play into that idea. The inner conflict between Ellis’s Irish self and growing American ideals is the only thing that really stands in her way. Her love for Tony remains present throughout the whole movie, even when it seems that she might choose to stay in Ireland after she returns for a funeral. This is because we see her homesickness latching on to a childhood friend, Jim Farrell. Her inner war isn’t a result of loss of love towards Tony, but rather that she originally left Ireland to search for more opportunity but then suddenly finds it at her hometown. When it becomes clear that her world would be easier, the viewer is almost afraid that she’ll settle for what she didn’t want and break Tony’s heart. But, the real fear that Ellis has is that she won’t be successful in America and she’ll be turning down a life of ease and familiarity for something that could result in her failure. It’s almost as though Ellis takes over her sister’s place in the town. She almost believes that if she just stays back in Ireland and marries Jim, she’ll eventually get over Tony. But, the shortcomings of a small town and her love for Tony eventually bring her right back to America. This is the a subtle commentary on the power of love without making it unnecessarily extravagant and I appreciated that aspect of this movie.
When she first comes to America, Ellis stays at a women’s boarding house. The girls in this house are portrayed as very kind but very silly in contrast to Ellis’s serious nature. They are a vital part of Ellis coming out of her shell in American and this adds to the comfort of this movie. When Ellis is uncomfortable and distant from the friends she eventually makes, the audience feels as though they are strangers in America as well. These girls not only make Ellis feel at home, but they make the audience comfortable in America as well.
The final thing that I enjoyed about this movie was the curricular feeling that the movie had. At the start of the movie, the audience sees Ellis on a boat to America. She meets a woman named Georgina who helps her through the rough sea voyage and gives her advice on how to get through immigration. At the end of the movie, the audience sees Ellis do the same for another young girl as she returns to America. This circular effect shows that Ellis realizes that America is truly her home and she wants to pass on the opportunities she was lucky enough to receive.
TLDR: Overall, this movie is a feel-good movie. It’s well-acted, well-written, and well-shot. It brings the audience on a trip to 1950’s Ireland and America and provides an insight (though arguably through rose-colored glasses) towards some of the struggles that an immigrant may face as they settle in to their new lives.