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Brooklyn: A Captivating Film that Puts Struggle into Perspective

Posted by cfeehan on March 18, 2016

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Take a moment to imagine yourself alone, scared, and sick on a boat travelling to a country you’ve never been to. You’ve just left behind everything you cared about – your family, your friends, your country, your entire way of life – all in the hopes of a fresh start and a “better life”. You have no idea what lies ahead, and the uncertainty is most terrifying of all.

This may sound like a nightmare rather than reality, but it’s the story of millions of immigrants all over the world. It’s also the beginning of Eilis’ journey in the movie Brooklyn, the Oscar-nominated 2015 film. Eilis (pronounced AY-lish) is a young Irish woman who gets the opportunity to move to Brooklyn, New York, leaving behind her sister and mother. It’s an opportunity that she cannot turn down, and when she arrives in America, she is overwhelmingly lonely until she meets Tony, a young Italian man who she quickly falls for. But things cannot stay rosy for long, and Eilis is soon faced with the difficult decision of whether she wants to remain in Brooklyn or go back home to be with her family.

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What I liked about this movie was that it really made me think. I was a bit worried when I went into it that it would revolve mainly around a light love story and that I wouldn’t be able to get engaged in it, but this was not the case. It did a very convincing job of portraying Eilis’ emotions and struggles, and it really made me consider all the conveniences we take for granted today. For one, we have SO many mediums for communication. Texting, social media, Skype, Google Hangouts, even just having quick access to a telephone…these are all instant ways to connect with a family member or friend, and Eilis obviously didn’t have these luxuries. She had to wait for letters to be delivered, which took weeks, so updates were sporadic and often arrived too late. Another huge modern convenience is our access to advanced methods of transportation. Today, if something significant happens half-way across the world, we can take a red-eye flight and be there in the morning. Back in the 50s, crossing the ocean in a huge boat was the only option, and they weren’t exactly the quickest things around. It would be hard not to feel stranded without the option to talk to your family or pop back to visit them if you got lonely, and this is exactly how it was for Eilis.

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It’s interesting to note that although the novel Brooklyn is based on was written by Colm Tóibín, an Irish novelist, the actual movie was written by Nick Hornby. He is the same author who wrote High Fidelity, About a Boy and A Long Way Down, three other fantastic films. Brooklyn had a much different feeling than those films, however, so I wouldn’t go into it expecting the same style. The film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay though, so this difference in style clearly wasn’t a problem.

Speaking of awards, Saoirse Ronan, who played Eilis, was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her part in Brooklyn. Although the Oscar went to Brie Larson for her role in Room (which was an absolutely amazing but heartbreaking movie— you should watch it immediately after watching Brooklyn), Ronan still pulled off her character beautifully. The emotion she was able to convey through her eyes was stunning, and the innocence of her character was endearing and believable.

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Although some trailers for this movie may suggest that it’s about making a decision between two lovers, it’s ultimately about deciding between two completely different lives. It’s incredibly rare that you get to choose your life’s path, but Eilis is given this chance in this movie. Her decision will depend on where she can see herself being happy – is it with her family and friends where she grew up, or in America, the “land of opportunity”, with her new love? You’ll have to watch it to find out!

Check out Brooklyn on Execulink’s VOD channel (ch.100) from March 15th to June 30th, 2016.

P.S. I’d recommend not watching the trailer before watching the movie, because it actually has a ton of spoilers. You can thank me later.