By AISLING MCENTEGART
Irish people have been making the voyage across the Atlantic ocean in hopes of finding a better life in the land of opportunity for decades. This theme is explored in “Brooklyn,” a must see new film based on a novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín.
“Brooklyn” follows the journey of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman who has aspirations beyond what her small Irish town can provide her with. When Eilis’ beloved sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott) manages to organize a job for Eilis in New York City with the help of a New York based Irish priest, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) she leaves behind everything she knows, in pursuit of the American dream.
Once she sets out on her travels, the realization hits Eilis that she may never see her family or her homeland again. When Eilis finally makes it to New York she takes up residence in Brooklyn, living with several other Irish ex-pats.
Although she is surrounded by her native people, Eilis experiences crippling homesickness and finds it difficult to keep her composure while working, much to the displeasure of her supervisor. Homesickness was something Ronan herself experienced while filming, allowing her to emphasize with her character deeply.
“I had moved away from home and was living in London. [I] was going through home sickness myself and still trying to figure out where I stood in the grown up world,” said Ronan. “It’s a very daunting feeling I think and I was right in the middle of that while we were making the film. So it meant that every kind of stage that we see Eilis reaching and overcoming, I was going through myself.”
However, this changes very quickly when Eilis meets a charming young Italian-American man named Tony (Emory Cohen). Although they are as different as night and day, the two instantly forge a connection.
As Eilis’ relationship with Tony blossoms and she adjusts to life in the Big Apple, thoughts of her small Irish town begin to fade. That is, until tragedy strikes the Lacey family and Eilis is called home.
“She grows into this amazing young woman because the people around her have been kind to her and they’ve helped her and they’ve shared advice and wisdom,” said Ronan.
As soon as Eilis returns to the Emerald Isle, her mother (Jane Brennan) does everything in her power to persuade Eilis to stay at home and abandon her life in New York. Eilis is introduced to Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), a young man about to inherit his parent’s estate. Jim represents a life of stability that causes Eilis to question her feelings for Tony.
“As soon as she comes home, her mother automatically starts to take ownership over plans with her friends and the job that she’s going to take up and things like that,” said Ronan. “She can see that that’s starting to happen, but doesn’t necessarily do anything about it because she’s home and she’s kind of falling back into [a] fantasy.”
Eilis experiences fierce internal conflict as she is forced to choose between the comfort and familiarity of her ancestral home or the thrill of her life in the United States.
“Ultimately these two men are representing two different worlds and two different lives that [Eilis] could have,” said Ronan. “I could completely justify her staying in Ireland over New York, even though New York ultimately [would be] the braver and probably better choice for her.”
Through her participation in this film, Ronan made some important realizations that audience members can also learn from.
“It taught me that everyone goes through [homesickness]. Everyone has this feeling and it won’t always feel like this. It will get easier,” said Ronan.
This film deals with the subject of emigration and the themes of homesickness and love in a beautiful manner. It is impossible not to be moved by this film and the masterful performances brought to the table by Ronan and the rest of the cast brings this film to the next level.
“Brooklyn” is open in theatres nationwide from Nov. 25. Make sure to check out this truly inspiring film on the big screen.