“Brooklyn” is an emotional film that addresses the essential and dismaying questions in life: What is our place in the world? How decisive can the power of love be? What action should the human heart take when it is divided in all its commitments? The film revolves around the issue of the immigrant experience, a concern at the forefront of today’s politics.
Directed by John Crawley from a screenplay written by Nick Hornby, the film blows a breath of life into Colm Tóibín’s novel.
“Nick was able to adapt this very colorful, rich piece of literature for film,” Oscar-nominated actress Saoirse Ronan said during a conference call with The Hoya.
Twenty-year-old Ronan, who splendidly takes a challenging lead in “Brooklyn,” has held starring roles in Joe Wright’s epic “Atonement,” “The Lovely Bones,” “Hanna,” and Oscar-winning “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
She embodies Eilis Lacey who, equipped with her keen wit, gentle humor and determination, departs the idyllic Irish village of Enniscorthy for the overcrowded shores of Ellis Island. Overwhelmed by homesickness, Eilis finds sudden consolation in the intoxicating force of love. However, a family tragedy catapults Eilis back to her past, where she must claim her identity by choosing between two countries, two lovers and two possible lives.
Eilis first greets America as a self-effacing but highly capable, young girl who is limited by the narrow confines of her Irish village. She undergoes a physical and emotional transformation.
“I think the heart of this movie is that Eilis gets on well in life and she grows into this amazing young woman because the people around her have shared advice and wisdom and their experience,” Ronan said. “Because of that, she has been able to ultimately stand up and announce who she is.”
Initially she is unable to assert herself because of conflicting emotions. Ronan’s ability to connect with her character creates an intensely charged performance.
“The real personal connection for me was the fact that my mom and dad had made that trip over from Ireland to New York and had gotten married in city hall just like Eilis and Tony did,” Ronan said.
Living in London at the time of the shootings, Ronan was longing for her home herself.
“[I was] still trying to figure out where she stood in the grownup world,” Ronan said. “I was right in the middle of that daunting feeling while we were making the film, so every stage that we see Eilis reaching and overcoming, I was going through myself.”
The crux of this young female immigrant’s tale culminates in her decision to return to Brooklyn.
“When she goes back home to Ireland, even though she has evolved into the young woman who has her own life and job, decisions are slowly starting to be made for her again,” Ronan said.
A citizen of a nation of exiles, Eilis encounters difficulties switching back to Irish-mode. She bears the signs of both worlds, but feels like a stranger in both the country she has left behind and the place that she has chosen to live.
The adorably charming Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) and his provincial but gallant Irish opposite, Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) ultimately represent the “two different worlds and two different lives that she could have,” Ronan said.
The film’s message rests on redefining home. In the end, any place can be “just like home;” the balance is to be found internally.
Eilis’ journey is that of a girl exploring the beauty of being a woman; it is the initiation of an inexperienced individual who learns to rule the universe as an adult; it is the trip of post-World War II survivors in search of prosperity on promising U.S. shores; it is the notebook of a powerless female immigrant dealing with cultural adaptation, unknown emotions, survival and the desire for liberty. “Brooklyn” today in D.C. and is showing in select theaters around the country.