Eilis (Ronan) is a bright young woman who, feeling there is nothing for her in her native Ireland, makes the momentous decision to emigrate alone to the United States. It is the 1950’s and Irish society is still ultra conservative, deeply religious and full of gossip. Eilis is a clever girl and wants more for herself than simply looking after her widowed mother so she embarks on a voyage into the unknown.
Once in Brooklyn, New York, Eilis boards with 4 other young ladies at the house of the no-nonsense Mrs Keogh (Walters). The local priest helps secure her a job but wracked with loneliness and homesick to the point she cries herself to sleep each evening, Eilis cannot quite fit in with this new America and its freedoms, so foreign to the girl from Ireland.
It is not until she meets the young mechanic Tony (Cohen) at a dance that she begins to feel there may actually be some happiness for her in America. Their budding romance is shy and innocent, a true courtship as they get to know each other. Tony is clearly smitten from the start but Eilis is made of sensible stuff and takes her time with this first love.
However, when Eilis must return to Ireland to confront a family tragedy, she meets Jim (Gleeson) who despite her initial reluctance, manages to sweep the bewildered Eilis off her feet. She is even offered a job while she is at home and her aging mother is naturally delighted to have her youngest child back with her.
She must now choose between the new life and love she has in America or fall back into the familiarity of her homeland with a man she could never have imagined existed.
Nominated, and quite rightly so, for a slew of major awards, Brooklyn is a timeless romance. It may be set in a past we tend to view with rose coloured glasses but the themes of love, loss, family and home are universal.
Ronan delivers a performance of such subtlety and grace that I found myself homesick for Ireland, such was the empathy I felt for her character. Her choice between Tony, the hard-working son of an Italian immigrant or the far more privileged Jim, who could provide Eilis with all she could ever wish for materially, was heartbreaking as both men were fine characters in their own way, each wonderfully suitable for our young heroine.
This is an absolute must see for all, not just those who enjoy love stories. It’s also a wonderful story of a time of great change that resonates deeply within the cultures of both countries, particularly the Americans who are so very proud of their Irish roots. It is a rich, layered movie that will tug at the heart-strings so bring a tissue.
Director : John Crowley
Starring : Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Eileen O’Higgins, Eva Birthistle, Nora-Jane Noone
Running Time : 111 minutes
Release Date : In Cinemas Now