Austin Film Festival 2015 Review: BROOKLYN

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

Leaving the comfort of your family home for the first time, for whatever reason – education and work, among many others – is not an easy feat for many who have various adjustments to make. It is one thing to make the move in the city you are born in to another larger city, or another state within the nation, but quite different from one country to another. In the past over 15 years, I have learned a considerable amount about the challenges individuals face as they emigrate from other countries to the United States, either by hearing their stories, or reading about others. Films have also provided stories from the past, as iIn May 2014 with the feature film, The Immigrant, a story of a woman traveling with her sister. This very dramatic film provides the harsh details of her experiences as she tries to start her new life.

By contrast, the novel by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn, has been adapted into a screenplay by Nick Hornby and this 20-something Irish immigrant, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), does not have the same encounters in the early 1950s as she travels alone on the ship at the urging of her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott), who has secured the assistance of an Irish priest, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent). While these two stories have very different experiences for each emigrating protagonist, the films feature women braving it all due to harsh economic times and ultimately find a level of happiness after living through the challenges. Despite that Eilis Lacey’s situation is in a different time period, this romantic drama is sure to appeal to many – immigrants or not, and regardless of socio economic status – as there is a range of emotions to identify with in today’s world as each person tries to succeed and be content.

The feature film, Brooklyn, was acquired by Fox Searchlight at Sundance at the beginning of the year, and subsequently has screened at a myriad of film festivals around the world, including the Austin Film Festival on November 2nd at the Paramount Theater as part of the Marquee Features category.

Eilis Lacey works in a grocery store for a rude and malicious woman, Miss Kelly (Brid Brennan), and it appears to be out of shear economic necessity that Eilis stays on the job. She appears timid, but when given the opportunity to escape the mundane life, she proceeds to pack her possessions and say her goodbyes. Stateside, she finds her way to her boarding house, run by Ma Kehoe (Julie Walters), where several other young women reside. She secures a job at a Brooklyn department store, homesick and timid with a need for continuous training by the floor manager, Miss Fortini (Mad Men’s Jessica Pare).

That is, until the night she escorts a fellow tenant to the church dance and meets Tony (Emory Cohen, The Place in the Pines). The young Italian American plumber falls head over heels and does not delay in expressing his emotions. Her life is completely changing, but so is life in Ireland and when she has to return, the couple agrees to marry and do so at City Hall. It is when Eilis is in her home country that she encounters options as never before, including Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson-Ex Machina). I will not spoil this for anyone who has not read the book. I highly recommend viewing the film to find out where her heart and life will stay.

Directed by John Crowley, Brooklyn has a great story and superb performances. It opens in Austin on November 20th

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