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Brooklyn

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Stars Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen

America is a nation founded by immigrants and although the immigrant story has been told countless times over, director John Crowley gives us a moving and funny movie bringing a degree of empathy to this particular tale that is rare. In chronicling the move of a young Irish woman in the 1950s from her home country to New York City, Crowley takes an intimate view of what it means to leave family and try to make a new home in someplace entirely unfamiliar. Based on the novel of the same name, Brooklyn revolves around a young woman named Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan). Her life in Ireland is somewhat stagnant and unremarkable. A family friend subsequently arranges for Eilis to immigrate to New York, where she has already been set up with a job and living arrangements in a boarding house full of other young Irish immigrant women. Though she is chastised by some for leaving her older sister as the sole caretaker of their mother, Eilis sees there’s not much for her in Ireland, and so she leaves with a fairly clean slate. Once in New York, Eilis settles nicely into her boarding house. While at first sheepish and quiet, she soon comes out of her shell after meeting a young Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen), who has a thing for Irish girls. Earnest, fairly straight-laced but not too “square”, Tony instantly forms an attraction towards Eilis and the two strike up a sweet and cordial romance. But when an unexpected turn of events forces Eilis to temporarily return home to Ireland, she’s stuck in between two lives with an impossible choice ahead of her: which place is home? There’s a fair amount of humour in the film, mostly thanks to the interplay between the young women at the boarding house and their stern but well-meaning caretaker, played to perfection by Julie Walters. Domhnall Gleeson is also very good in his portrayal of a young man living in Eilis’ Ireland hometown, and Jim Broadbent does solid work as the priest who helps Eilis come to America. Brooklyn results in one of the most deeply emotional immigrant stories I’ve seen. While some of the intensity falls away in the film’s latter half, the emotional impact of the characters remains strong throughout, and the film concludes with a shot straight to the heart.

Rated M 8 out of 10