I don’t care about Valentine’s Day much and neither does my partner. However, neither of us object to a nice night out at the movies, so that was his Valentine’s Day gift to me this year.
I’ll be honest, I’d heard Brooklyn was a good film, but I didn’t know much about it. In some respects, this allowed me to go in with a very clear mind, free of preconceptions. And heavens alive, did this film deliver.
Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey (in an exquisite performance by Saoirse Ronan) as she emigrates from a small Irish town to Brooklyn, leaving behind her mother, sister and a very gossipy neighbourhood. She struggles to adapt to her surroundings, and is faced with the prospect of love.
Right away, this is a great if simple set-up, and the movie accepts it. There’s no attempts to embellish or make the story anything it isn’t. And you know what? Thank the heavens above, because this is enough. Seeing Eilis in this situation is all we need as an audience. It’s not about huge political, social or economical issues, it’s just a slice of life. Eilis seems human. She has real emotions. She’s homesick. She’s lonely. She’s happy. She’s hopeful. She’s scared. She’s conflicted. Eilis’ relationships with her mother, sister and boyfriend are very natural and relatable to everyone.
The other characters are memorable with defined personalities. You remember them all because again, they’re real. There’s no pretense or falseness here. The movie works so well because it’s firmly grounded in reality and therefore, the audience can connect with these characters and stay invested.
Without giving away too much, the third act of the film centres on a dilemma Eilis has where it appears she needs to choose between the life she truly wants. Again, it’s a very real struggle, and you genuinely don’t know what she’s going to do. But the choice she makes is the right one for her, if somewhat sad, and the ending scene is absolutely perfect, bringing the character arc to a flawless conclusion.
The entire time I was watching Brooklyn I was thinking to myself “This is what The Dressmaker could have been;” and while I don’t know if I fully believe that, I still feel a lot more satisfied by what Brooklyn did. Both films were about two women trying to make a new life. Both were about two small towns with some vindictive members. Both had a love story and both were centred around a certain country.
Now, I loathed The Dressmaker for a number of reasons, notably the unfocused vision and unjustified violence (if you haven’t read my rant on The Dressmaker, click here and knock yourself out). The Dressmaker ultimately didn’t know what the overall theme and message was and instead made a very unsavoury and sub-par film. Brooklyn knows the scope, the audience and the overall tone. It accepts what it has to work with and engulfs itself in the story.
This movie has everything. It’s well paced, beautiful to look at and an engaging story with relatable characters. The acting is perfect and you stay invested every step of the way. I am so grateful that this movie was made, and made so well. It’s a rite of passage/transitional period story told to perfection. It’s a shame it missed out on Oscars, but hopefully it can have a strong DVD life. See it if you haven’t already.