3 Stars – Thoughtful
Understanding the courage and sacrifices of an immigrant to the United States is helpful in our 2016 national discussion. Leaving behind a beloved family and nation, the immigrants are conflicted as they seek a new life in this land of opportunity. But what makes their journey worth it is the truth that new life and the creation of a new family is possible in their adopted identity as Americans. This reality is compellingly told by John Crowley in his Oscar-nominated best picture, Brooklyn.
Set in the years following World War II when Irish immigrants were coming to Brooklyn, New York, this tale is based on a novel by Irish author Colm Tóibín and adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby. The central character is Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), trailing in the footsteps of her older, accomplished sister Rose (Fiona Glascott). In the post-war Ireland Eilis cannot find work except working on Sundays for a cruel baker.
With the help of her sister and her priest, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), Eilis is assisted in her immigration with a Brookleyn boarding house and a sales position in an upscale department store. But upon arrival she is lost, depressed and homesick. Coming to her aid once again, her church provides her not only with a worshipping community of Irish Catholics, but with social and educational opportunity. It is there that her life begins to take form again in her new national home.
Central to this new life is a young Italian she meets at their church social named Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen). A sweet and charming young plumber whose family of boys has begun capitalizing on the post-war building boom in places like Long Island, Tony and Eilis begin a romance.
We won’t spoil this love story or the tension brought into their relationship when Eilis is called back to Ireland by her mother Mary (Jane Brennan). The tragedy that occurred is devasting for both Eilis and Mary, but the trip home reconnects her with her childhood friend Nancy (Eileen O’Higgins). She also reconnects with a young man she only superficially knew, the sincere Jim Ferrell (Domhnall Gleeson) and his tempting attention.
What is often left out of current immigration discussions is the humanity of the people who are seeking to live a better life. Like the millions who came before, including the ancestors of most current Americans, these are people with dreams, hopes, sacrifices and faith. That the church was present in the care of the Irish immigrants of the 1950s is a powerful reminder for the love and care it takes to help people find a better life in this 21st century.
- In the current discussion over immigration, do you find yourself drawn to the people and their individual stories and lives or do you find yourself detaching and keeping separated from them – whoever the them may be?
- By the time Eilis returned to Ireland she had experienced the joys and possibilities of the “American Dream.” Do you think this is the experience of most immigrants? Why do you answer as you do?
- The Church and her priests were actively involved in Eilis’ life. What do you think you could do to help a new immigrant to our nation become successful in both faith and family?