Brooklyn is a beautiful coming-of-age story set in 1950s rural Ireland and Brooklyn, New York. A tale of immigration, family duty and love, it was a modern classic as a novel and now a film.
Irish author Colm Tóibín* set half the novel in his home town of Enniscorthy, on Ireland's south-eastern tip, sleepy, rural and, in the 1950s, little changed from the beginning of the century. Life there revolves around the Catholic church and family duty. Many of the young people, like generations before them, have to emigrate to find work, and that is what Eilis** Lacey's brothers have done, leaving for England and rarely, if ever, returning. That leaves just Eilis and her elegant sister Rose at home with their widowed mother. Then Rose suggests that Eilis emigrates too — to New York.
The small-town Irish girl finds herself to some extent in a home from home — boarding with a formidable Irish woman (played by Julie Walters on excellent form). Mrs Kehoe keeps an eagle eye on her "girls" making sure they keep to Irish Catholic standards of moral behaviour.
Eilis is desperately homesick at first, but thanks to an Irish priest, finds work, and begins to settle in, meeting an Italian-American plumber, Tony. But then she receives tragic news from home that will leave her torn between two countries, two lives, and two men.
Eilis is played by Saoirse*** Ronan (Atonement, Lovely Bones, The Grand Budapest Hotel), herself a product of Irish immigration - born to Irish parents in New York, she then spent most of her school years in Dublin and feels the immigrant's familiarity with both cultures while always being partly an outsider.
Brooklyn received three nominations for this year's Oscars (Best film, Best actress (a second nomination for Saoirse Ronan), Best adapted screenplay (by novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy).
* Pronounced CULL-um Toe-BEAN
** Pronounced AY-lish
*** Pronounced SOR-sha