Sunday, November 22, 2015

Brooklyn [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (4 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (3 3/4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McCarthy) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (Noel Murray) review  

Brooklyn [2015] (directed by John Crowley, screenplay by Nick Hornby based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] by Colm Tóibín [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is an excellent, well crafted (Irish/Italian/American 1950s-era) immigrant story that certainly deserves Oscar consideration (best picture, best adapted screenplay, even best actress in a leading role) and it's one of those stories that would fit well at an inter-generational family gathering.

Nice, soft-spoken, late-teen / early-20-something Eilis (played wonderfully by Saoirse Ronan) probably destined grow-up and live-out her life pretty much invisibly in rural County Wexford in Ireland, is offered a break conceived by her older sister Rose (played by Fiona Gascott) that, one guesses, she probably would not have come-up-with on her own: Recognizing that one of them is probably going to have to take care of their widowed mother and as the older sister, that would perhaps be best done by herself, Rose writes a priest friend, Fr. Flood (played again wonderfully by Jim Broadbent) in Brooklyn, New York, to sponsor Eilis, give her a chance to emigrate to the United States and thus "make something of her life."  It's an act of self-sacrifice that many of us today would perhaps not completely understand.  It was Rose who came up with the idea, so why didn't Rose herself ask to be sponsored / "jump on the boat" to flee in hopes of a better life?  Well, that's _how people were_ "back in the day" and _perhaps_ we express self-sacrifice in analogous ways today.

So Eilis leaves Ireland to live, to a certain extent, Rose's dream.  This means, of course, that at least initially, Eilis is not necessarily ready for the whole big, wide world that awaited her as she stepped on the ship that took her across the ocean to the United States and then especially when she arrived in New York.  Yes the kindly, indeed, honestly angelic Fr. Flood, helps her, setting her up with a job in a department store and with a place to stay at a 50s-era young single women's boarding house (the boarding house scenes are _priceless_) run by a no-nonsense church-going matron Mrs. Konoe (played again magnificently by Julie Walters) who's not about to let the young women staying in her house "go bad" due to "giddiness" / temptation under her watch ;-).  Today, a good deal of younger viewers would perhaps "roll their eyes" as they listened to some of Mrs. Kehoe's advice to the 50s-era young women, all basically in their early to mid-20s staying in her house.  On the other hand, today's young people might also note (and with some jealousy) that Mrs. Kehoe _cared_ about "her girls" while today the "landlord / tenant relationship" generally ends (after the background check and deposits have been made...) at simply the question of the rent being paid.

So after some six months of some fairly desperate homesickness (and the passing of her first winter in New York ;-), Eilis finds herself "quite on her feet."  Part of what makes her time more pleasant is that she "finds a guy" AT A CHURCH DANCE ... who, despite it being AN IRISH CHURCH DANCE, turns out to be ITALIAN ;-) ... "AMERICA" ;-) ;-).

Her surprising, Italian beau, Tony (played again magnificently by Emory Cohen) is a soft-spoken, similarly early 20-something plumber, who came to the dance, because ... he simply "liked Irish girls," and it turns out that Eilis, kinda liked him ;-).  Tony had a whole family (parents, brothers and sisters) living in another section of Brooklyn and soon enough she gets to meet them.  Another priceless scene in the film is when Tony's precocious 10-12 year old brother proudly proclaims to Eilis that "We here, in this family, DON'T like 'the Irish'" whereupon rest of the aghast family quickly/loudly tells him to "SHUT UP" ;-), but SMILING, he stands his ground: "NO, IT'S A WELL KNOWN FACT, WE'VE NEVER LIKED THE IRISH ..." well UNTIL NOW ... Eilis' mere gentle smiling presence (at the invitation of now smiling-from-ear-to-ear Tony) "changed things" now and forevermore in that household and TRULY, NOW, THE PROMISED NEW LIFE OPENED UP FOR EILIS...

... 'Cept (this _is_ at least in part "an Irish story" ;-) ... just as Eilis is becoming happy in New York, word comes that older sister Rose ... died, quite suddenly, back in Ireland.

The rest of the movie follows, as much now still has to ensue ... ;-)

Folks, this is honestly a great and largely gentle 1950s-era immigrant story. 

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