Review: ‘Brooklyn’ delivers captivating, heartfelt performances

Published: December 11, 2015


Arts & Life Editor

 Released on Nov. 25, “Brooklyn” is a film based on a novel by Colm Toibin that follows the life of a young Irish immigrant who finds herself living in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s.

 Warning: Spoilers ahead. Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) decides to leave Ireland with the help of her beloved older sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott), who thinks she deserves a better life and a future with more opportunities. So what better place to start than New York City?

The film begins in Ireland, right before Eilis leaves. As she boards the boat to leave, she bids a bittersweet farewell to Rose and her seemingly numb, widowed mother. She is faced with sickness on her trip and befriends a fellow Irish woman who gives her advice on how to act when entering America and what to expect.

In Brooklyn, Eilis lives in a boarding house with several other young women and an older woman who watches over them, Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters). She works at a department store and initially feels terribly homesick for Ireland…until she meets Tony (Emory Cohen) at an Irish dance.

Tony admits to Eilis that he is not in fact Irish, but Italian. He is charming, and the first man who appears to give Eilis any kind of attention. The two go on several dates, in which Eilis, who has barely spoken since her arrival in Brooklyn, can’t seem to stop talking. After just a short time of knowing each other, Eilis and Tony’s relationship blossoms and they fall in love. While watching this relationship develop on screen, I almost felt as though I knew the two characters. Their chemistry seemed sincere and my eyes were glued to every moment they shared.

Though watching Eilis go through a difficult time with her homesickness was tough to bear, Tony’s influence on her was truly beautiful and reflective of what it means to be in love. He encouraged her to have the confidence she always had inside herself and we got to watch as she transformed and became comfortable with whom she was.

 Then, heartbreak strikes. Eilis is faced with an incomprehensible loss when her sister, Rose, suddenly passes away due to an illness about which she told no one.

While leaving Tony is difficult, she knows she has to go back to Ireland temporarily to console her grieving mother and herself.

While she is in Ireland, an old friend tries to set her up with Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), a good-looking, put-together, Irish gentleman. No one at home knows about her situation with Tony, so Eilis tries to push Jim away but is faced with difficulty by the prying, but loving, community of friends and family in Ireland. The audience is faced with a dilemma and a torn heart when Eilis starts to develop a relationship with Jim. He is nice, intelligent and caring, but on the other hand, so is Tony.

Watching Eilis’ heart tear in two was extremely relatable and Ronan did a wonderful job at putting on a believable performance. I really did not know whom she was going to pick in the end—staying in Ireland with Jim would mean leaving Tony and her new life in Brooklyn behind, but leaving Ireland would mean leaving Jim and her mother behind.

 What did Eilis end up deciding? Well, the answer is in the title.

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