Films of the Year: ‘Brooklyn’


Let me start by saying that I think Saoirse Ronan is great. And that I kind of hate that she is younger than me. And that my flatmate had a legitimate, only half-joking conversation about how it could be great if we could kick our current flatmate (who has lived in the flat for 14 years) out and move Saoirse Ronan in. Moving on.

My flatmate tried to arrange for us to see it several times but we never worked it out. He watched it alone on a Tuesday and said it was okay. By Wednesday he said that it was very good and definitely worth a watch. I went on Thursday.

He also said that at the end of the screening he went to, no-one left their seats so he wondered if there was some sort of post-credits sequence (to Brooklyn?); he looked around and saw that everyone was crying. I watched it at The Barbican and everyone just left when the credits started to roll. Brutal architecture, brutal audiences.

Someone said to me that they didn’t like the book. They then said that they had never read the book, and they won’t because they don’t like the author.

Nick Hornby wrote the script. He also wrote the book About A Boy, a film that I enjoyed immensely in my childhood and have probably watched in excess of 50 times because I have a mildly obsessive personality. He also wrote the script for Wild, the script that I enjoyed most from last year’s crop of ‘for your considerations’ (which are now available for the 2016 award season). After Brooklyn, I will now happily watch any film that Nick Hornby has scribed. I also listened to the Nerdist podcast that he was on and he seemed like a really sound guy which made me like him and his work all the more.

The basic blurb of Brooklyn is: an Irish girl moves to America (Brooklyn, to be precise) for better work prospects. She falls in love. She has to come back home due to a tragedy. There is potentially a love triangle.

This is how it was sold to me at least, particularly the love triangle part.

I don’t think there ever was a love triangle. At no point did I think that she would fall in love with the Irish guy and not return to her husband. It never really seemed that she wouldn’t leave Ireland for New York again. No, if you are looking at this film through the gaze of it being a love story, I think you are missing something.

Or maybe I am the one getting it wrong. If I am, I’m fine with that as I still enjoyed it immensely. I say “enjoy”. I texted someone afterwards saying that it made me feel “bereft”. Us millennials have fun in all sorts of different ways.

To me, this is a film about home and place. Eilis had to leave home as there was no “place” for her in Ireland, that is work, love, or so on. The lingering shot on Saoirse Ronan’s face just before she left the dance conveyed a lot about feelings of tenderness for a place while also saying goodbye. It was quite heartbreaking actually, and says a lot about Ronan’s acting talent and the director’s instincts as it was a notably unusually long time that the camera held just on her face. In Brooklyn she had work, but was painfully homesick. It was not home. Her body was there but her heart was across the ocean. Then her heart found a place. Ah, young love. Only to be ripped out on her need to return to Ireland, where she finds that she has family, a job and (the potential for) love, but her world has been opened and her designation of home is no longer the same.

We are all dynamic beings, and I felt that the film conveyed change and growth in subtly and truthfully.

It wasn’t all big representations of life. Some of the more entertaining parts came when Eilis was rollicking around with her friend(s) in Ireland, giving it that Irish charm, in the boarding house (definitely in the boarding house. Julie Walters is always a star) and on the boat. Ah, the romantic notion of sailing across the Atlantic all but undone in the bucket scene.

The ending was schmaltzy.

“Why the hell did people cry at that?” I thought as I left. “I mean, it was good, but huh, that let it down.”

I cycled home.

I started to cry.

It’s a grower, but there is definitely a level of poignancy in Brooklyn that I haven’t felt from film in quite some time. It was one of the most powerful and surprising cinema experiences I’ve had. Then again, maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age.

Now to practice eating spaghetti.


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