Release Date: 2015
Director: John Crowley
I love immigration stories, and Irish immigration stories especially. I’m sentimental that. But I really struggled reading the novel Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. It’s a beautifully written book that depicts the everyday challenges of a young woman alone in New York half a world away from her family, but I found it frustrating because Eilis seems to have no agency and allows other people to make every decision for her. So it was with some trepidation that I went to see the movie adaptation.
While following the same basic plot line, the film has more humor and allows Eilis to have much greater agency. In fact, the through line of the film is Eilis developing her confidence and her decisions at the end of the film are much more definite than in the book. So basically, the story was Hollywood-ized.
And I’m okay with that. This is a rare occasion – perhaps the second time after The Natural – where I actually think the Hollywood ending makes the movie better than the book. It helps considerably that Eilis is portrayed wonderfully by Saoirse Ronan who takes the challenge of portraying a character we mostly see from the interior in the book and making her thoughts and feelings clear through her expressions and few words. There’s also beautiful cinematography and costuming that capture the look and feel of the Irish countryside and the bustle of 1950s Brooklyn and their people.