I’ve never been one to get excited about Oscar-nominated films. It’s not that I’m turned off by the hype surrounding them all, but for me, it’s more that they seem out of my reach. These films are often heavy, emotionally jarring, and chock-full of meaningful undertones. I get their appeal—I mean, why else would they be nominated for arguably the biggest and best of all film awards? But when I see a movie, it’s because I’m looking to feel something right away. I don’t want to over-think and over-analyze. I want to be taken out of my reality and dropped into someone else’s. I want the cinematography to light up my eyes and my soul. Let’s be honest, sometimes I just want to fall in love. And so, along came Brooklyn. This movie is simply stunning from beginning to end. So stunning, in fact, that it got to the point where I couldn’t stop thinking about it days after seeing it.
Brooklyn is a love story. It’s a coming-of-age story, and a finding-home-away-from-home story. It’s not sappy or predictable. I might even call it humble. I consider myself to be quite the homebody, but I’ve left pieces of my mind and my heart across the world. This is definitely something that makes this film so accessible—it’s story is one that we can all find something in common with.
Eilis Lacey, played by Saoirse Ronan, is a young Irish woman who finds herself with an offer from a priest in Brooklyn to leave her small town in Ireland to live in the United States. In leaving her small town, she’s also leaving the only family she knows—her sister and mother. Upon arriving in Brooklyn, Eilis’ transition is immediate. She moves into a boarding house with other young women and begins working at a department store, where she is noticeably uncomfortable and shy. Of course, a lot of her discomfort and shyness stems from the homesickness she’s plagued with. She meets with the priest who sponsored her immigration and explains how her journey has been thus far, “I wish that I could stop feeling that I want to be an Irish girl in Ireland.” He counters, “Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It will pass.” (Yeah, I’m keeping that one with me forever.)
And so the homesickness passes. No longer an Irish girl in Ireland, Eilis becomes an Irish girl in Brooklyn. She learns about herself and embraces the qualities that she already embodies—she’s tough, she’s intelligent, and she’s determined. Between her job, a night class in bookkeeping, and a charming young Italian guy named Tony, Brooklyn begins to feel more comfortable.
Tony and Eilis’ love story isn’t grand—it’s soft and warm. From the moment he sees her, you can tell he’s smitten and that their connection is undeniable. He loves to watch and listen to her talk. He’s moved by her and he’s gentle with her. He doesn’t shout his love from rooftops; instead, he carries it with him. Their relationship builds slowly, but I love how honest and simple it was from the get go. I have a goofy, lovestruck grin on my face just thinking about them together.
Just as Eilis begins to explore and deepen her romance with Tony, she’s plucked out of it when tragedy strikes back in Ireland. She chooses to uproot herself and travels home, where she quickly finds herself sinking back into familiarity. She has no trouble finding her old rhythm, picking up a job and socializing with friends. Though it seems as if little to nothing has changed in town, it’s clear that one thing is distinctly different—Eilis. She’s more confident and she’s seen so much more of the world than everyone else. She quietly embraces the same pattern of life she once knew, but in her heart, Eilis knows she’s grown out of it. She even notes, “I’d imagined a different life for myself,” but it’s up to her to decide where home really is.
Aside from the storyline and the romance, Brooklyn’s cinematography and acting are both absolutely necessary to mention. The costumes, the colors—it’s all so vibrant. So often, I think of historical movies as dull and cold. But Brooklyn is colorful and full of life. And then there’s Saoirse Ronan, who is absolutely captivating. An Irish girl herself, she truly makes Eilis a believable and likeable character. Don’t even get me started on Emory Cohen, who plays Tony. Swoon. The chemistry between Ronan and Cohen is easily the best thing about Brooklyn. I shamelessly wanted to third wheel them. I think I might’ve even fallen a little bit in love with them. The rest of the cast (including Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters) is perfectly noteworthy as well, as each character plays an important role in Eilis’ story and each actor’s performance is so memorable.
Brooklyn is a gem of a movie. I think I feel so attached to it because it explores how a young woman defines “family” and “home” while trying to balance that journey with the ups and downs of falling in love. It’s on my level—and it speaks to me on a level that few movies have. Although Eilis leaves her family behind across the sea, she creates her own version of family and home in Brooklyn. On the surface, Eilis’ story gives the wanderlusting daydreamer in me hope that I too can travel across the world and build my story in a home away from home. Granted, my circumstances will be a little different from hers, I still admire the way her character handles it with such grace and bravery. The romance, especially the honesty and simplicity of it, was incredibly refreshing. The way I view relationships today is so far from that and it made me reevaluate what I’ve considered a priority when it comes to dating.
I think the simple, delightful nature of Brooklyn is enough to make it worthy of its “Best Picture” nomination. I don’t see it winning against the likes of The Martian and Room, but I can absolutely see Saoirse Ronan winning for “Best Leading Actress.” After all, Eilis’ enchanting spirit would be nothing without Saoirse (and those shockingly bright eyes of hers). Brooklyn is an incredible story, backed by a fantastic cast and a beautiful setting. I recommend it from the bottom of my slightly Irish heart.