Where is home? Who are your people?
This used to be an easier question to answer—home is where you live, and your people are the ones around you. Today, pundits talk about urban families, virtual communities, and long-distance relationships, all of which are reshaping what ordinary people take to be their community.
Brooklyn (adapted from the bestselling Colm Toibin novel) filters its response to these questions through ethnicity, romance, geography, and religion. But it’s set in the 1950s, in Brooklyn and Ireland, and it’s hard to write about it without resorting to cliches, because here are some good descriptors: luminous, poignant, poetic, heartwarming, elegiac. Every time you think it’s going to tip over into straight-up melodrama or maudlin sentimentality, it cracks a small joke, smiles shyly sideways, drops a single tear.
A few shots in the film recall Andrew Wyeth's rolling grassy landscapes. Others evoke Edward Hopper's vividly rendered urban stillness, and still others borrow on the good-hearted depictions of young love and friendship in Norman Rockwell’s work. All three of these painters made art familiar even to those of us who’ve forgotten their names, and they also all worked in the 1950s, and that might help explain why Brooklyn feels like a half-remembered dream. It skips big set pieces to dwell on expressions and glances, principally those of its young protagonist Eilis Lacey, played by Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Lovely Bones, Grand Budapest Hotel) in her first Irish role.
There’s little in mid-century Ireland to give Eilis much of a future, so her beloved older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) contacts Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), an Irish priest ...1