Movie Review: “Brooklyn” – Moving But Imperfect

Written by Caitlin Cooper January 07, 2016


Ireland is one of those picturesque countries people see pictures of and read books about, and daydream of one day visiting. But there aren’t many movies about Irish people, especially in recent years (at least that I know of). I once took an Irish literature course where we read some of Colm Tóibín‘s work, and he seemed to capture a gritty and realistic depiction of Ireland. When I saw the trailer for Brooklyn – an adaptation of one of his novels – which promised to deliver the same emotional story as his other books, I knew I had to see the film.

Brooklyn is about a young woman named Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) whose sister arranges for her to move to America; the church has lined up a job in a department store and got her lodgings at a boarding house for other young women like her. And though she’s initially excited to embark on her journey, life in 1950s Brooklyn is far more lonely and difficult than she expected. But once she begins making friends and meets Tony (Emory Cohen), she begins to feel like she could have a good life in America. She never expected for her heart to be torn between her old life in Ireland and her new life in America, but a death in the family brings her back to the place she once couldn’t imagine leaving behind. Once there, Eilis is forced to decide which life she wants.

“Home is home.”

What I love about Brooklyn is how it shows the trials of immigrants sailing to America, having to deal with customs, and being so homesick it affects your new job. Eilis struggles right from the start, but she’s unsatisfied with her life in Ireland, and faces nothing but emotional abuse at her job there. She finds an ally on the ship who looks after her and tells her how to survive at first. To see her return the favour at the end of the movie when a new Irish immigrant is on the ship to Brooklyn is a lovely bookend to her tale. Another aspect of Brooklyn that is so moving and engaging is the relationship Eilis has with her sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott). Rose does all she can to help Eilis have a better life, even if that means leaving Ireland. You clearly see how much the sisters love each other. When Rose passes away, it’s one of the most emotional moments in the film.

But the one part of the film I’m not sure of is the romance. So much of the plot actually hinges on it, but I’m not 100% convinced. Sure, I believe Eilis cares about Tony, but I don’t quite believe that she loves him. And I hate that he basically guilts her into marrying him before she goes back to Ireland to visit her mom. Nothing says love like using guilt to convince someone to marry you. Except for those points, I thought their relationship was strong. And then in Ireland she meets Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), and he reminds her of what her life would’ve been in Ireland had she stayed. Her mom and everyone pressures her to stay. But what does Eilis want? It only takes her old boss trying to blackmail her to make her run back to Brooklyn. Her decision isn’t fully convincing. For me, it makes the ending a bit unsatisfying.


Brooklyn has such a talented cast, it’s no wonder the film managed to make me emotional. Ronan has been acting since she was a kid, and it’s easy to see why her career is so good. She knows how to play to the complexities of Eilis and her situation with ease. She helps make Eilis come across as believably witty, vulnerable, emotional, and strong. Fiona Glascott plays Eilis’ sister Rose with such heartbreaking honesty. Julie Walters as Mrs. Keog is bizarrely funny, but tough. Cohen makes Tony sweet and awkward in a charming way despite my reservations about his character. Domhnall Gleeson as Jim is kindhearted and earnest. Together the cast helps make Brooklyn shine.

“I wish that I could stop feeling that I want to be and Irish girl in Ireland.”

Brooklyn is a good film, but it’s not perfect. It gets so much right about being an immigrant and family relationships, yet towards the end begins to get shaky. The romance starts off well and then heads into unrealistic waters. If the film had a stronger ending – with more focus on Eilis’ journey as an immigrant than the romance -, I would’ve enjoyed it even more. But one thing’s for sure, the cast of Brooklyn is outstanding, and despite the story’s issues, it’s worth a watch. I dare you not to get emotional.

My Rating: 7/10


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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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