When I watch a film, it’s usually based on a book (and that’s often the reason I watch the film at all). Here’s the first in a new series of mini-reviews. I watch a film of a book that I’ve read, and then I tell you about it… without spoilers.
I read the novel Brooklyn by the Irish writer Colm Tóibín in 2015. This was a new edition to tie in with the film’s release. First published in 2009, the book won the Costa Novel Award. The film, directed by fellow Irishman John Crowley and written by the popular author Nick Hornby, won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film. It was available to watch on BBC iPlayer (the TV catch-up service for the BBC’s UK channels) and I finally got around to watching it. The cast includes Saoirse Ronan, Julie Walters, Domhnall Gleeson and Jim Broadbent.
Set in the 1950s, the film closely follows the book. Eilis (pronounced ay-leesh or eye-lish) is a young woman emigrating from Ireland to America in search of new opportunities. She leaves her sister and mother behind. Living in Brooklyn, New York, she experiences homesickness and loneliness before finding romance. However, when she returns to Ireland due to a family tragedy, she has to make a choice between the two countries, two men and two different lives.
The locations and scenery are beautiful and the acting is excellent (particularly Saoirse Ronan as Eilis). I imagine that watching this film would be a nostalgic experience for the many people who left their homelands in the postwar era to remake their lives in the US. My main issue with the film, as with the book, is that I was waiting for something really dramatic to happen. It didn’t. The story is like a memoir because everything that happens is based on real life experiences. It’s not a bad thing, just different from the kind of story I’m used to. I’d describe it as bittersweet, romantic and emotionally engaging.