“Brooklyn” is one movie adaptation where I wish I had read Colm Toibin’s bestseller first, because in the first thirty minutes I was yawning like the main character was at early Mass. I must say that I was rather “blown away” by the ninety-nine percent Rotten Tomatoes’ rating given this coming of age immigrant drama. It is period fair, grandly acted, heavily scored, but little else.
One exception is the Christmas scene at a church shelter. Here, dozens of lonely ,old Irish men tear up as an Irish singer regales them with homeland ballads. The homesickness for Ireland from these builders of bridges, tunnels and roads fills our hearts with sadness for their loss. Our protagonist’s own longing for Ireland is met with Father Flood’s ( Jim Broadbent) weary “Homesickness will make you feel wretched and then will move on to someone else.” Love of Ireland’s green expanses and surrounding sea is made visceral by Nick Hornsby’s screenplay.
One hopes that the sweet, sensible Eilis Lacey (Saorise Rohan) will not turn into the mean and manipulative Irish women portrayed in the more drear domestic scenes. Eilis’s sacrificing sister Rosy (Rose Fiona Glascott) was better off dead than becoming the crone of Wexford’s market (Brid Brennan) , or her punishing mother for that matter.
The Italian stereotypes comes off better. The loving laughter and support around a pasta -filled table has napkins waving in direct contrast to the hanky -wringing of the Irish steerage class. Eilis’s Italian plumber boy friend Tony ( Emory Cohen) is love-besotted, sweet and thoughtful. I loved his honesty and smiled at the one sex scene that showed his amour if not his technique. Did the novel draw out more romance ? Why weren’t his letters answered or opened more urgently ?
When Eilis makes her life decisions whether to stay in Ireland,up hold her marriage vows, move into the big house, take care of her mother’s wishes, remove herself from gossipy villagers or marry an Irishman,we are struck by her face and her determination to make her own choices and re-choices. I never doubted that she would return to Tony, but there was enough suspense to wager with my husband if the Brooklyn Dodgers’s set would call more than the crested-blazer golfers.
Witnessing Eilis grow in confidence and working in a large department store with those cool pneumatic tubes which whisk money away is pure “coming of age”. Viewers all connect with their first jobs and encounters with a larger world. Likewise, scenes from the women’s boarding house are delightful. Friendly pasta practice, Mrs. Kehoe’s ( Julie Walters) “giddiness as the eighth deadly sin”, and the general commaradery of young women living together are crafted nicely.
“Brooklyn” certainly is not a waste of time, but given the amazing cinema out this month, I would chose as carefully as Eilis has. Or, better yet, see them all and throw your own rotten tomatoes.