The last of our Best Picture Nominees and possibly the strangest, in as much I’m surprised it got on the list at all.
We are following the life of an Irish immigrant leaving her home to start a new life in America sometime in 1950s. It’s about her living a period of readjustment before she must return to Ireland due to a family tragedy and wonder whether she loves the new life she is building for herself in Brooklyn or return to Ireland…and that’s about it.
There’s really not a whole lot going on in this movie. It feels like a pilot for a period piece show in the vein of Downton Abbey. But Downton Abbey has a wealth of characters filled with interpersonal dramas concerning the aristocracy and the servant class of England. Brooklyn only concerns one character’s drama of getting over homesickness. Nothing much is made about immigrating to America at the time, the social upheaval, or even the growing Irish population in New York City conflicting with the other immigrants pouring into the area. It’s just about one dainty woman’s struggle with missing home, wherever that may be.
The first half of the film just deals with the main character, Eilis, getting her bearings in New York while living in an Irish boarding house with several other women and developing a romance with an awkward Italian boy. Is there any drama to the romance? Not really, more like internal drama for Eilis which I’ll get too later. What about having issues with her house mates? Some jokes are thrown around and that’s about it. Like I said, this movie really feels like it’s introducing several characters that we would get to know in a television show. Coincidentally, BBC has already commissioned such a show to be made, which makes more sense to me than this movie.
To the film’s credit, I’ll say they picked a great lead actress in Saorise Roman, who is really able to communicate a wide acting range throughout the film involving joy, melancholy, depression, happiness, etc. But the movie around her was just so damn uninteresting that I was struggling to get through the second half of this film when the main character returns to Ireland.
Here is where the true drama of the movie is centered around as Eilis debates between staying in Ireland with a potential new love interest or returning to her man in Brooklyn. I wish I could say this was interesting but it’s really not. And honestly, from my perspective, the Irish home just kept pissing me off. The doting mother of Eilis and her shitty former boss just kept annoying me more than anything. I was bored to tears until the end when Saorise Roman showed anger for the first time in the picture and snapped back at someone.
Thing is, the person who Eilis snapped at kind of had a point. See, Eilis starts to go along dates with an Irish boy while she has a relationship in New York. And before you say, “hate the game, not playa,” I would be in agreement with you if not for the fact of certain legal entanglements Eilis got herself into. I’ll let you figure out what that entails. Nonetheless, the main drama does not introduce itself until the last 20 minutes of the movie when Eilis debates staying in the small town life she originally left due to lack of opportunities; or return to Brooklyn, leaving her old mother behind alone, and pursuing a life filled with opportunity. But honestly, I didn’t give a shit which decision she made.
Much like Carol, this is a film with zero fucking stakes, it’s a flat line until the halfway point in the movie when a conflict is introduced then dropped to jack shit happening until the last five minutes of resolution. Perhaps the boring plot could have been alleviated had characters given me a reason to be invested in their lives, but I could not find Eilis to be an interesting character. She’s timid, mousey, rarely speaks up for herself, and shows little initiative in pursuing certain relationships until someone sits her down and scolds her before she finally shows a modicum of personality and…oh fuck me, she’s a Young Adult Hat. Everything I just described makes her indistinguishable from the protagonists of The 5th Wave, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Twilight.
The only difference between this movie and those godawful come stains is that the script is now ear-tearing awful. It’s competent. It’s fine. But it barely shoots a single fucking spark in this two hour period piece. And it’s all complimented by even more competent production values with age appropriate costumes and sets, tied together with a snoozer of a score. I could not find what people are seeing in this movie as being “emotional” or “powerful.”
If anything, this movie’s all about finding a sense of home wherever you may be and to find where your family is. But the key for “family” is that you have a sense of relationship between characters. The only strong relationship is between Eilis and her Italian boyfriend. It’s a genuinely sweet relationship, but there’s really nothing interesting to it. I mean if you saw those two in the streets, you’d think “oh what a nice little couple.” But that’s all, there’s no spice to this relationship until the literal end when Eilis has to decide which man (and location) she wants to be with.
I left the movie feeling nothing. I’m perplexed this got the accolades it did, because I could not get a single impact in anger or joy. For that reason, and for the reason the movie did nothing inherently wrong, I’m going to give this a middling…