From the late nineteenth century to the early 1950’s, Ellis Island was the open door into the United States for Europeans looking to chase the American dream. Nothing seemed more heavenly then to be able to live in a place that seemed so inexpensive and massive that everyone had a chance to feel like they could be king. What I mean by that is that they find their riches in happiness rather then wealth. It’s safe to say that many people, including most Americans, are still looking for their own American dream, which given how much inflation has risen the cost of living, is harder to find.
Back to the history, immigration from Europe had been on the rise once New York City was seen as the welcome mat to the American dream and a better life. The problem is that rather then moving on after completing the process through the gate, they stay put rather then traveling on further. Having been to New York myself, I can say that the city is very intimidating and can scare away the lazy ones very quick. But for those that are willing to trudge through the bad times, as shown through Brooklyn, then happiness isn’t too difficult to look for.
It’s 1952 in the small town of Enniscorthy, Ireland where a quiet and introverted young woman, Eilis (played by Saoirse Ronan) is getting ready to make her move to New York. This was arraigned by her sister Rose who hopes that her sister can find a better life, despite objections from her mother. Her boat ride across the Atlantic at first proves unpleasant when a combination of food poisoning and seasickness leave’s her feeling miserable and vulnerable. A kind passenger, a woman who’s an experienced traveler, helps her and even gives her instructions on how to get through immigration without trouble.
She settles in a boarding house in Brooklyn, that’s home to a bunch of young woman. Eilis is constantly teased by her roommates and finds that her shyness isn’t suiting her new job at a local department store. With help from a local priest, father Flood (played by Jim Broadbent), she’s enrolled at a local college, taking classes on bookkeeping. At the same time, she meets an Italian plumber Tony (played by Emory Cohen) that becomes her boyfriend, which raises her spirits, making Brooklyn feel like home more often. But a tragedy sends her back to Ireland to help things out, questioning what she really wants.
When I came into Brooklyn, I thought it was going to be nothing more then a typical immigration story. I was right, but was also surprised. From what I’ve described, there really isn’t much of a plot, but rather then a slice of real life. I kept expecting an evil roommate or boss that wanted to stop her dreams, but thankfully, that never happens. I like movies that don’t feel like they have to stick to a plot. The simple coming of age story of a young woman is this movie needs as long as Eilis is interesting.
Saoirse Ronan plays her with such honesty and care that I really would have liked to know her character’s life after the movie. Saoirse can use this as clear evidence that she’ll have no problem getting work for her adult career.
Brooklyn may sound like a typical coming of age story, but the story allows her to evolve gracefully at the right pacing. There are plenty of moments she’s simply watching the city, the coast, and even the Irish landscape that both allows her to think and to take in some great photography. This reminded me of a Hayao Miyazaki movie in this sense.
I’ll give this five Brooklyn postcards out of five. This may be one of my new favorite “coming of age” stories. Brooklyn treats it’s teenage character with honesty and like a relative you’d want to look out for. I definitely recommend this immigration story.