Brooklyn: A Film Review

Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, while spending time with family I was invited to the movies.  Instead of one of the big fall studio films or sure-fire Oscar bait that comes out this time of year, I was invited to see Brooklyn.  Having not heard of this film, I went in blind.  I had never even seen the quaint poster.


Typically if I see a big time studio film, I don’t bother writing about it.  It is some of the films that don’t get as much attention that I prefer to write about, in hopes of drawing more eyes to the film.  And in doing that, I usually like to start my write-ups with the trailers I saw leading into the film, as I usually find another level of entertainment in some of the trailers attached to the lower profile releases.

Now a little background, I have been a huge film buff for as long as I can remember.  I am not going to get into some of the all-time classics I never got around to seeing and conversely, I have seen a ton of smaller titles ranging from arthouse to crappy comedy to some movie that someone I liked was involved in, despite the fact only four people, including the cast’s family, heard of the movie.

In recent times, I look at some films and go “Wow, I would’ve loved that ten years ago”.  But in some ways I am much less of a pompous ass now.  In other ways, I am much more, so you know, life balance.

Anyway, the screening opened up with a trailer for an actual big budget film, which surprised me but allowed me to laugh.

It isn’t that the coast guard amuses the hell out of me.  I saw this trailer before some movie this summer and laughed then.  I like Chris Pine just fine.  I’ve pulled for the dude since he was the lesser known love interest in Lindsay Lohan movies when she was still relevant (2006’s Just My Luck).  Something about his Boston accent makes me laugh.  Guess that’s just me being a masshole.

Next up was exactly what I was expecting – The Danish Girl

So, I haven’t seen Theory of Everything yet as I was Team Keaton at the Oscars.  Cool, homeboy took yoga to contort himself in a chair.  I saw Jupiter Ascending, that should negate any award discussions ever but we all know Mr. Redmayne will get nominated again for this movie where he bravely transforms into Bryce Dallas Howard.

Third was an “art house” film that I was actually aware of- Carol

I forget where I heard about this.  It looked good but you know what took me out of the moment?  #CAROL

I think I pissed off some of the old folks in the theatre by legit laughing out loud that even art house films are getting hashtags now.  I guess that’s just society.

I later text my buddy about my bewilderment of an arthouse movie making a social statement using the hashtag marketing.  He never heard of Carol so I summed it up for him “Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara scissoring in the 1950s”.  I think he got what this movie is and how brave of a social justice warrior I am.

My highlight trailer definitely came in the late spot

Looks dope.  I am a Michael Caine apologist and will fight anyone who besmirches my main man, Sir Mikey C.

Also in search for this trailer, the international trailer got some hot chick showing ass and titties, so, I’m in.  For sure.

I ended with another laugh, thanks to the Jolie-Pitt consortium

Got this trailer with no words and just that upsetting sobbing at the end.  Totally sold.

This brought us to the main feature –Brooklyn.  The movie is an adaptation of 2009 novel by Irish author Colm Tóibín.  The screenplay was actually adapted by Nick Hornby – author of High Fidelty and About a Boy.  While he didn’t do his own screenplays, he did do screenplays for the highly regarded films An Education and Wild.  He has also truly peaked my interest now that I know he wrote a short story called “Nipple Jesus”.

Saoirse Ronan stars in the film as Eilis Lacey, a girl living in a small town in Ireland during the 1950s.  Clearly having no direction, Eilis has used the connections of her sister to move to Brooklyn, New York in the coming days. Eilis lack of direction, and opportunity, is demonstrated as she helps lay the pavement for her best friend to meet a boy at a local dance, while dealing with her nasty boss at the market.  Like, this lady is evil for no reason.  She dresses down a lady on the spot for asking for shoe polish on a Sunday, shortly before firing Eilis on the spot once she finds out that our protagonist is moving across the world in a few weeks.  That wasn’t without telling Eilis that she gave her sister a death sentence by abandoning her.

Eilis clears her affairs with her mother and her sister and sets about on a voyage to America.  On the boat, she immediately tries to hide in her quarters.  She gets bumped to the top bunk by her cabin-mate, a fancy lady who had already done what Eilis intended by moving to America.  She went back to visit Ireland and was excited for the long boat ride back to New York, as it is nice to go somewhere where everyone doesn’t “know your auntie”.  Preach.

If you think the movie is sounding dry so far, well, we are getting exposition and stuff that will come back later.  However, you ever watch The Lovely Bones and think, you know what could improve this movie?  The murdered girl shitting in a bucket.

First, I’d say, pleasure to meet you, Jared Fogle.  Second, I’d say, this is your film!

You see, Eilis is an inexperienced traveler.  She never really left her little bubble before, let alone took a voyage across the sea, so all the food she ate gets her super seasick.  Her bunk-mate finds her and not only explains the ways of making it on the sea but also gives her tips for what to do upon arriving in America.

Eilis settles in America.  We see scenes of her at the dinner table with the people who live in her boarding house and I have to admit, the repeated scenes at the dinner table are some of the best of the movie.  Eilis is boarding with a bunch of Irish immigrants in Brooklyn and there are some sweet 1950s cat-fights and some hella awkward girls, which is cool in my book.

She gets a job at a department store but the homesickness gets to her.  She communicates with her sister by letter all the time and we can see her sister’s struggle as she reads them.  Eilis gets a letter from her mother that makes her feel guilty for ever leaving and she breaks down at work.

The priest who sponsored her voyage visits her and reassures her there was no life for her in Ireland.  To help make the transition easier, he has enrolled her in night school for bookkeeping, a job her sister fell into back home.

Eilis gets on the right track and as the woman running the boarding house finds her the most trustworthy, she gets assigned to bring the new girl, who may be the weirdest in the boarding house, to the dance that weekend.

Once at the dance, Eilis is given tips by some of her flirtier housemates and ends up being approached by a young man who doesn’t seem quite Irish at the Irish dance.  The two hit it off and a romance blossoms with Tony, an Italian plumber who saves Eilis from a giant dinosaur.  Wait, wrong story.  This Tony is more grounded but just has potato fever.  That’s a thing, right?

While Eilis is scared at first, Tony becomes the center of her world and helps her really feel on her own and an adult, something she struggled with to start.  She is excelling in school, becoming a superstar at work, she has the man she has always wanted.

In one of the more lighthearted moments, we discover living in Ireland, Eilis never learned how to eat pasta.  She gets trained by her boarding house companions, which is later made fun of by Tony’s little brother, who reminds me a hell of a lot of the kid who gives Cam Newton crap in those NFL Play 60 commercials.  The best part, and I don’t know if it was intended that way, the child actor who is the only one without a New York Italian accent, just randomly breaks out in stereotypical hand gestures.

Let’s see him do that to Cam now.

As the world can’t get better for Eilis, she gets word that her sister died suddenly from an illness she was hiding.  Eilis gets on the phone with her mother, both through their churches as neither seem to have ever used a telephone before.  Eilis gets that Irish Catholic guilt as her mother talks about being all alone.

Eilis, conflicted and feeling selfish with her new life, decides she needs to make the long voyage to visit home.  Tony does his best to support her but he wants her guarantee and commitment to coming back to Brooklyn.

She eventually does but keeps the story behind Tony a secret when she returns home, as she did in all prior exchanges with her mother.

As she gets home, her mother tries to convince her to stay and she is being courted by the most desirable bachelor in her town.  At this point, a movie I knew nothing of and was actually enjoying got me stressed out, upset and feeling for characters in the story.  You know, the stuff a good piece of art should.

Essentially, the confidence the move to Brooklyn, and a lot of credit going to Tony, that Eilis received, was presenting home in a different light, one that had not been possible until she came to America.  The rest of the film highlights the difficult choices presented to a young, naïve girl finding her way in the world.

The movie was really well done by a cast who got me more invested in the story than I truly expected when I blindly went in.

As I am a stickler with giving a perfect score, I give Brooklyn four out of five stars.  A great story that you can enjoy, while taking your lady-friend, or your mother, to a film they would enjoy.  I’d say in the South your mother and lady-friend may be one in the same, but we know how they feel about immigrants.


Written by B. Patrick

Currently residing in Phoenix, Arizona, B. Patrick's interests include comedy, basketball, wrestling, comic books and can change as quickly as a butterfly flaps its wings.

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