A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published January 31st 2016
Homelands for the Heart
Brooklyn tells quite a simple and delightful tale, but it is in the telling that the viewer is guided through another era, to the small country villages in Ireland where everybody knows everyone, to the teeming metropolis of New York and Brooklyn in the 1950s. The era has been richly portrayed and faithful to the times. I was fortunate to see this romantic historical period drama in the heritage Regal cinema in Kensington, South Australia, with the setting mirroring the post war austerity, with homage to the classic art deco architecture and design.
The film explores what happens when cultures collide and allegiances are tested. Saoirse Ronan is perfectly cast as a young Irish woman, Eilis who emigrates from Ireland to Brooklyn in 1952. She leaves behind her widowed mother and only sister Rose. The ship journey is the first stage towards independence, but is fraught with storms, seasickness, betrayal, homesickness and anxieties.
Eilis comes to reside in a boarding house for women in Brooklyn, which is run by the strict fuddy duddy Madge Kehoe. There are many comic scenes of the women at the dining table talking about their jobs, aspirations and men. Eilis meets and falls in love with Tony Fiorello, the quintessential Italian New Yorker. They start planning their future together when tragedy strikes and Eilis is called home as her sister has died suddenly (this death is unexplained). Eilis marries Tony in secret before she leaves to go back to Ireland.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Colm Toilbin. The screenplay written by the very able Nick Hornby. The film is never showy or overplayed. There are many great performances by all the character actors. Even the smallest role of singing an Irish song in words we do not know is so full of meaning and pathos. But the film does stand and fall on the performance of the lead actress Saoirse Ronan. She has a commanding screen presence, her eyes drawing the viewer into the story. A good old fashioned romance that held this full house audience for every moment.