Brooklyn written by Nick Hornby, directed by John Crowley (Wildgaze Films, BBC Films, Parallel Film Productions, PG-13, 117 min)
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Conan, Jim Broadbent, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan, and Domhnall Gleeson.
A Nation of Immigrants
We are a nation of immigrants. The farther we move from our nation’s inception, the hazier this fact becomes. But truthfully, the majority of the American population can trace its roots back to a voyage across the Atlantic.
On my father’s side, the dominant story establishes itself with early roots. A Thomas Jefferson Richards braced tempestuous waters in the chilly Atlantic on a “Mayflower.” In my younger years, I wanted to believe TJR represented the first pilgrims. I haven’t done enough digging for full proof. All I know from family history is that he made the American trek very early.
Why did he do it? What circumstances from the British Isles inspired him to rip apart familial and communal bonds to start fresh in the new frontier?
An Escape Toward Sanctuary
On my mother’s side, the clearest story emerges from escape of fascist rule. My ancestors disembarked from Hungary at the beginning of Nazi takeover.
Were my great-grandparents fearful of the demagoguery bleeding over the German borders? Did they have a core understanding about the terrors to come? Did they know another World War would envelope Europe?
Did they hear of sanctuary on American shores? Had they learned from friends or relatives about success within the American will and Protestant work ethic?
When I was finishing my graduate degree, my wife and I had an opportunity to move abroad and enroll in a doctoral program in Scotland. While we found such an opportunity exciting—a new frontier of culture, cuisine, and capabilities—the notion of ripping apart the status quo for a new adventure ultimately became too much to shoulder.
So when I consider the immigrant experience, I hold tremendous respect for the amount of bravery required to move halfway across the world to establish a new life.
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor
Given these thoughts, the critically acclaimed Brooklyn draws these emotions to the surface. A resolute Irish woman, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) uproots her existence, leaving her small town, older sister (Fiona Glascott), and mother (Jane Brennan), for opportunity calling in America.
A queasy Atlantic crossing later, Eilis finds herself in a boarding house, working at a department store and missing home terribly.
Luckily, the local minister (Jim Broadbent) steps in, enrolling her in night classes to help her achieve her vocational goal of bookkeeping.
A New Life. A New Love
Keeping her head pointed forward, Eilis discovers Tony (Emory Cohen) an Italian boy with a sweet disposition.
After months of courting, Eilis finally feels like America is home. However, a tragedy back home challenges her allegiances between what she left and what she is working to establish.
Brooklyn masterfully plots a story that feels true to genre yet unexpected.
While it might lean a little too much on the drama side for my personal preferences, its ability to channel the immigrant experience conjures images of my own family tree with a newfound respect for the sacrifices and strength my ancestors required as they charted a new path for which I now enjoy.
Brooklyn is worthwhile viewing.
Verdict: 4 out of 5