Film Review by Kam Williams
Homesick Immigrant Adjusts to U.S. in Bittersweet Romance Drama
Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) and Rose Lacey (Fiona Glascott) have stayed home for the sake of their widowed mom (Jane Brennan) who is still grieving the loss of their late father. The devoted daughters have had to put their dreams on hold, since job prospects aren’t great for young women without higher education in tiny Enniscorthy, County Wexford.
Although Eilis has exhibited an affinity for math, she had to settle for a part-time gig as a clerk at a grocery where she’s under the thumb of a vindictive shrew (Brid Brennan). After all, this is the early Fifties, a time when any ambitious local lass would set her sights on America, a land of opportunity with a proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Salvation arrives in Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), a Catholic priest willing to sponsor Eilis’ emigration to the United States. She grudgingly agrees, aware that this means that the entire burden of caring for their mother will now fall on her sister’s shoulders. Nevertheless, after an exchange of tearful goodbyes, she boards the New York-bound steamship and descends to a bunk in steerage for what proves to be a seasickness-inducing voyage across a roiling ocean.
Awaiting Eilis in Brooklyn is a room in a female-only boardinghouse run by an eagle-eyed landlady (Julie Walters) obsessed with protecting the reputations of the gullible, young Irish immigrants placed under her supervision. The naive newcomer’s also handed a job at a department store, as well as tuition to study bookkeeping at college.
Despite being the beneficiary of so much good fortune, Eilis misses her mother and sister terribly. And she seriously considers repatriating, over the assurances of Father Flood that the feelings of homesickness will eventually pass.
Everything does change the night she meets handsome Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) at a dance. The two fall in love at first sight and embark on a whirlwind romance which finally enables Eilis to make the adjustment to life in the States.
But just when she’s ready to put down stakes on American soil, fate intervenes in the way of a tragedy that mandates her immediate return to the Emerald Isle. And wouldn’t you know it, that while back in Enniscorthy, Eilis finds herself pursued by a wealthy, eligible bachelor (Domnhall Gleason).
Which suitor will she choose? The answer to that question arrives at the moment of truth in Brooklyn, a touching historical drama directed by John Crowley (Closed Circuit). Based on Colm Toibin’s best seller of the same name, the film features an elegantly understated performance by Saoirse Ronan likely to land the 21 year-old ingenue her second Oscar nomination.
A poignant character study highlighting an American Dream delayed and then derailed. But will it ultimately be denied?
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for brief profanity and a sex scene
Running time: 111 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures