Featured picture courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
By Jessica Bao (’18)
The film Brooklyn tracks a young Irish woman, Eilis Lacey, as she immigrates to Brooklyn, New York in the early 1950s. And It tells that story with grace: gorgeous costumes, soft lightings, smooth cinematography, and accents that walk the fine line between charming and overwhelming. There is no doubt that Brooklyn is a great film, as evidenced by its three Oscar nominations. But it also has its flaws. The movie has a spot-on cast led by Saoirse Ronan, but little diversity. Some may argue that the movie’s focus on Irish immigrants calls for an all-white cast, but the movie also includes immigrants of other nationalities, and at least some of them could be from an area other than western Europe.
So why am I asking to you give this film a second look, if it has its faults? What makes it worth watching now, if you didn’t do so a year ago when the it first came out?
It’s because even with all of its weaknesses, Brooklyn did a beautiful job in portraying a relevant subject, today more than ever: immigration. To begin with, those who moved to America after leaving their home countries can recognize Eilis’ emotions and struggles. There is the homesickness of being in a strange country; the slow, terrifying, yet rewarding experience of meeting new people; the confidence that comes from building a new life, and the constant but fading draw of the old one. What resonated with me the most was when Eilis visited Ireland after finally adjusting to life in the States, and was no longer the shy and timid girl she once was when she left. She returned with stylish skirts and shiny sunglasses – a bright spot in her hometown, but as unfitting as she was before she left. As someone who moved to America after ten years of living in China, but still often visits there, I can relate to that somewhat misplaced sense of accomplishment.
Throughout Brooklyn, Eilis goes back and forth between Ireland and America, drawn to each country for different reasons. That journey of finding out where she belongs is familiar to many, but there is a deeper reason for recommending this film today. People at IA come from all over the world, and we have the fortune of being in this diverse and fascinating environment. But on a larger level, we have to face the fact that the country we live in is going through a tumultuous time right now. As the issue of immigration increasingly becomes a point of debate in America, Brooklyn becomes increasingly relevant. It shows the 1950s America in all of its nostalgic glory, with elegant department stores and colorful circle skirts. It also shows a time when the world saw it as the place to go when you are struggling elsewhere. No matter what your personal view is, watching this movie would provide some interesting insights.