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The Dose: Worlds artfully collide in ‘Brooklyn’

The Dose: Worlds artfully collide in ‘Brooklyn’

The Dose: Worlds artfully collide in ‘Brooklyn’
November 17
19:12 2015

Matt Payne | Senior Staff Writer


In the 1950s, before long-distance travel became expedient, going overseas was a complex journey.

Ferry rides could take weeks on end, meaning an indefinite and extended period of time without contact with loved ones. The convenient luxuries of modern travel were absent from the past reality of lodging in a shoddy boat cabin—a space not unlike the stereotypical college dorm today.

Traveling overseas, much less immigrating, was not a recreation in past times, but a true commitment. Director John Crowley’s “Brooklyn,” the film adaptation of Irish author Colm Toibin’s 2009 novel, embodies the daunting feeling of taking on a new culture that rises from coming into a new country as a 1950s immigrant. The film’s message is one of unity, reaching beyond international limits through a classic love story.

Actress Saoirse Ronan portrays Eilis, an Irishwoman who is able to secure a job at a New York bank through a family-known priest as she attends collegiate courses for a degree in bookkeeping. She lives in an Irish-run boardinghouse with women native to Brooklyn.

In direct contrast to her board mates, Eilis comes across as meek and somewhat dowdy, still adjusting to the accelerated pace of the booming 20th-century New York environment.

As the story plays out, she encounters an Italian-American plumber named Tony, portrayed by actor Emory Cohen. Ellis begins to feel a sense of home and familiarity from the environment that was once so traumatizing to her.

The premise of “Brooklyn” is fundamentally very simple. A young, curious and homesick immigrant makes her way into the hectic life of a New Yorker. Without the company of her mother and sister, she experiences crippling depression but finds motivation and eventual salvation within someone who is not only a fellow immigrant, but also becomes her lover.

Saoirse Ronan accredited her ability to portray Eilis to a similar background. Ronan’s parents came from Ireland, and she was coincidentally born in New York City.

“When you’ve had your own personal experience of leaving home yourself, and it is as emotional as it can be, you can’t help but allow that to sort of influence how you play someone,” Ronan said, “And how much meaning it holds for you.”

“Brooklyn” is a charming anecdote of blossoming love that reflects the city of Brooklyn’s status, both then and now, as a hub for cultures from all over the world to gather.

The tale is as old as time, but the film doesn’t overdress itself in an over-the-top effort to impress. “Brooklyn” stays simple and speaks for itself.

In spite of the various cultures represented in the film, which could potentially clash with one another, “Brooklyn” truly shines in its ability to link two individuals from remarkably different societies in the midst of a skyscraper jungle.

“She’s kind of seen as exotic by him, you know, and he’s fascinated by her because she’s different,” Ronan said. “I do think there’s a fascination on his end that allows her to have this sort of confidence.”

The film also successfully connects with the audience on an emotional level. With a main character experiencing the relatable battle of crippling loneliness, homesickness and the pangs of love that are part of the human experience, the ease of connection is seamless.

“The heart of this movie is that she gets on well in life and she grows, and she grows into this amazing young woman because the people around her have been kind to her, and they’ve helped her, and they’ve shared advice and wisdom and their experience,” Ronan said. “Because of that, she has been able to, as I said, ultimately stand up and announce who she is and realize that she needs to make a choice.”

Through appropriately-spaced humor, beautiful scenery featuring New York and Ireland and a somewhat textbook—yet compelling—story of love, the film appeals to several audiences. In a genre that can be easily hackneyed and overdone, “Brooklyn” stands out as a film that is not only romantically warming, but also encouraging in its medley of diversity, unity and the ceaseless habit of the human race to acclimate and mature.

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