January 15, 2016
Family Film Blogging (Oscar Edition): Brooklyn
Posted by Christine Hurt

I actually saw Brooklyn in December when it was first released, but missed blogging about it during the crush of finals, travel, etc.  I saw this movie with my law school colleagues, not my kids, but I think at least the teenage daughter might enjoy it.  Now, of course, it has been nominated for several Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay), so I thought I would dust off my opinions of it and write a review.

Eilis (sounds like A-liss), a young woman in Ireland living with her widowed mother and older, unmarried sister, sets off for America for a chance at life away from her small village.  Eilis is tired of the small-mindedness of the people, particularly the young men, and looks forward to her new life where she might find a career.  However, she is unprepared for the homesickness she feels living in a boarding house, taking bookkeeping classes and working in a department store.  Eventually, her fog lifts as she makes friends and even meets a young Italian man, Tony Fiorello.  Tony and his raucous family have great dreams beyond Brooklyn, planning on building homes on a plot on Long Island.  Eilis is very happy with her prospects until her sister suddenly passes away, sending Eilis back to Ireland for an extended visit.  Strangely, things have changed in her hometown, and she suddenly is presented with a better life wrapped up in a nice bow, forcing her to decide whether her home is in New York or Ireland.

To the ending, I believe that we are supposed to see that Eilis is evolved and now must make an informed, grown-up choice among her two options.  However, at the end of the movie, I would argue that one choice is foreclosed to her, making her "choice" not as voluntary as it may seem.  However, she embraces her choice whole-heartedly, which I suppose is almost as meaningful.  The movie is a great vehicle for a strong actress, and we all become great fans of Eilis.  The movie is not a gritty depiction of Irish immigrants in New York; Eilis is very fortunate to have her way paved for her by a compassionate Catholic priest and a network of helpful parishioners.  She lives in a lovely house with a kind but strict housemother of sorts; the girls in the house are catty but kind enough; her retail clerk job at a fancy store seems to pay handsomely; her efforts to educate herself at night school are rewarded; she goes to a dance and an outsider Italian man walks her home and he proves a cuddly gentleman with a family that embraces her despite her Irishness.  

The film is beautifully made with a sweet story.  I loved the costumes and of course, Eilis.  I'm not sure if I would vote for it for Best Picture (I loved The Martian and The Big Short.  I will not be seeing The Revenant), but it made for a nice afternoon.

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