Updated: Oct 29, 2019
‘Brooklyn is one of the best films ever made about leaving one's homeland in search of a better life, and forging a new path.’
For the longest time, I refused to watch this movie, afraid it would stir up too many emotions and be too close for comfort.
But yesterday, I finally watched it. It was perfect.
It is about a girl who leaves her life and family in Ireland and goes to America, a new land across the ocean.
The Guardian has a great review laying out the plot and the actors’ performance. It picks up on the fact that ‘Brooklyn beautifully evokes the sense of being torn between time, place and identity. In Ireland, Eilis is a daughter with a history; in America she is a woman with a future; in both she is filled with displaced longing.’
For someone who has lived international moves, the movie goes even further than that.
It masterfully weaves into the story many layers of living abroad.
Eilis deals with:
Guilt of leaving an elderly parent behind
Goodbyes (both in the home she leaves at the beginning and leaving loved ones in her new life to visit Ireland)
Things that don’t always work out the way she thought and living with results of choices
Where is home?
Adapting to a new country (Eilis learns to wear her bathing suit under her clothes…)
First trip back home
Staying in touch
Interestingly, it doesn’t seem like any one of them are resolved, We just see them lived out in Eilis’s life. Maybe that is why the movie is so powerful: it stirs up our very own human emotions.
Helping each other
I love the way the movie portrays communities helping each other. It is woven all the way through the storyline.
On her journey to her new life, Eilis is helped on the boat by an unnamed fellow traveller. Without her, I am not sure Eilis would have done so well getting into America and settling in.
Father Flood has lived in the new land for longer and he is brought in when Eilis feels homesick. She is not scolded for her feelings. No, this longing for home is treated with empathy, kindness and probably the best thing of all: something to keep her mind off it.
There are also the dancing evenings every Saturday that allow people to mingle. And the group of down-and-out Irish men who are served a Christmas meal by their fellow compatriots.
This theme comes full circle in a clever role reversal when Eilis, on her trip back to America after visiting Ireland, helps an unnamed fellow passenger.
The story did stir many emotions in me and I did end up crying through most of it. One thing I am most grateful for these days is that we have technology. We don’t have to wait for letters to cross an ocean.
Hope is the best thing about this movie: hope of happiness in a new life overseas even if you leave part of yourself behind.
Eilis sums it up beautifully at the end of the movie:
“You’ll feel so homesick that you’ll want to die, and there’s nothing you can do about it, apart from endure it. But you will, and it won’t kill you. And one day, the sun will come out. You might not even notice straightaway, it’ll be that faint. And then you’ll catch yourself, thinking of something or someone who has no connection with the past, someone who’s only yours. And you’ll realize, that this is where your life is.”