If you’re an Irish film fan you can’t have failed to hear about Brooklyn, our great hope at the Oscar’s, featuring a host of names that will make even the best presenters sound like John Travolta introducing Idina Menzel.
Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a girl from a small Irish town who emigrates to America in search of better prospects. Although Eilis is desperately lonely at first she grows to enjoy her independence away from home, and becomes more confident in her sales job at a city department store, encouraged by her sophisticated manager, Miss Fortini (Jessica Paré). Eilis meets Italian-American Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) at a church dance and they begin a serious relationship, despite her reticence to reciprocate Tony’s love.
Eilis is suddenly called back to Ireland when her sister Rose falls ill. She stays for a month to comfort her mother and ends up being courted by an eligible bachelor, Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), and managing the accounts at a local factory. Ireland now holds everything she had hoped for and so Eilis is forced to make a choice.
The film is faithful to the book which I read when it was published in 2009. I enjoyed it (especially the stomach-churningly vivid description of Eilis’s boat crossing to America), but I was surprised that the plot hangs on a deus ex machina twist, an implausible coincidence which is the catalyst for the denouement of the story. It seemed a little too convenient for a writer of Tóibín‘s considerable talent, and the film didn’t fare any better in convincing me otherwise. (But what do I know? The novel won the Costa Award and the film is up for numerous awards including Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards).
The film is worth watching for Saoirse Ronan’s performance alone. She has an astonishing talent given that she is only twenty-one, and in Brooklyn she reminded me of Cate Blanchett, in that her facial expressions convey as much as the dialogue. Domhnall Gleeson is charming as Jim Farrell (I was rooting for him the minute he arrived onscreen) and Julie Walters is the pious yet likeable Madge Kehoe, the landlady of Eilis’ boardinghouse.
The Ireland of the 1950s, as depicted in Brooklyn, is well-trodden territory for writers, but it obviously still holds fascination for readers and film-goers alike. Are there any Multiverse readers who have read the book or seen the movie? What did you think?