Grounded Sentimentality

 

Brooklyn

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Director: John Crowley

Writer: Nick Hornby

A fork in the road of life, one path leading towards happiness and the other toward ruin. Seldom is it heard that either way could bring joy or despair, and that it is a tough decision whatever the path. There will be times in one’s life when there may be no right decision, but two decisions with the possibility of much happiness and fulfillment but also pain and sorrow. Brooklyn brings this fact to our minds with rich vibrant color, living characters and a wonderful energy.

Eilis leaves Ireland with much sorrow and apprehension. She feels there is nothing for her at home and she’s probably right. She has a rocky start in America and is struck with pangs of homesickness, but with time and proper support she begins to thrive in Brooklyn. With a job, friends, and lover, Eilis is a new woman, and on her return to Ireland due to tragedy, she finds it a new place.

The Ireland Eilis left was one with little promise for her, but due to her Brooklyn experience where she was transformed through training and interaction, she finds Ireland a place with as much opportunity as Brooklyn. We can see it is not Brooklyn nor Ireland that changed, but Eilis.

Brooklyn takes a nuanced view of Irish emigration. It dispels the myth that all emigration from Ireland was forced by miserable economic conditions and lack of opportunity. Eilis story shows that she had equal if not more opportunity in Enniscorthy than in Brooklyn. Through the film we can see that emigration is not influenced solely by societal factors but that that there are forces beyond stale economics at work. Her love with Tony and the excitement of a new and gargantuan city are major factors in Ellis’ decision. She has a chance to start fresh with new people, a place to disappear. Somewhere far from Mrs Kelly, who represents the cold small minded local, familiar to many Irish people, the one keeping tabs on all. In New York there are certainly many Mrs Kelly’s but their power is diluted by the vastness of Gotham. Mrs Kelly’s banal spitefulness is contrasted with Jim Farrell’s sophistication and chivalrous demeanor, showing us there is nothing innately backward about Ireland, in fact Eilis herself points out how civilized it seems compared to Brooklyn. 

From what I knew of the film and novel before seeing it I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. I find the Irish emigration narrative quite self-indulgent and cringeworthy when portrayed in art and media, perhaps as an immigrant I’m too self aware! Of course it is sad to leave home especially when you would rather not, but I feel that for many who left and who are still leaving they leave because they wish to, for the adventure. Ireland is a fantastic place but the world is one’s oyster so it’d be unfair and unwise not to explore. Brooklyn is a celebration of Irish emigration to America, and in Eilis’ case for love, not money.

 

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