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Film / Brooklyn

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Brooklyn is a 2015 drama based on a novel of the same name written by Colm Tóibín.

Set in 1952, the film follows Eilis, a young Irish woman trying to make a future for herself in New York. Hesitant to leave her mother and sister, she realizes she has no choice if she wants a career. Level-headed and reserved, Eilis determinedly navigates her new life and what it means to have a place in life.

The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters.

The film provides examples of:

  • The '50s: Set in 1951-1952. Word of God is that they took full advantage of the fact that pop culture was just starting to take off in America.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Mrs. Keogh in the film is considerably kinder, softer and more motherly than she is in the book.
    • Eilis is far more sympathetic in the film than she is in the book. In the book she actually does cheat on Tony, kissing Jim passionately. When she departs for New York again, it's a Maybe Ever After situation and Eilis isn't sure she's done the right thing. In the film she has a Heel Realisation before she does anything and reunites with Tony for an unambiguous happy ending.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Minor, but Mrs Keogh in the film was spelt Mrs Kehoe in the book.
  • An Aesop:
    • The countryside or your home town is not always Arcadia and sometimes leaving for the unknown is actually a good thing, as is evident from the many conversations about Ireland and its challenges. Leaving home is bound to be full of heart aches and struggles, but homesickness does pass and it can lead to something great. Additionally sometimes small towns can be full of people who are just as nasty as some found in the big cities.
    • The movie is all about how the glamour and opportunities of the big city will not automatically lead to a better life as Eilis discovers when she volunteers to work at a soup kitchen.
  • Artistic License – History: Minor example. Rose's headstone dates the film to 1951-1952, and Eilis and Tony go to see Singin' in the Rain - which was released in 1952. However when Eilis first moves to America, one of her co-workers references The Quiet Man - which didn't come out until August 1952 (and at this point it's still 1951).
  • Arcadia: Subverted towards the end.
  • Benevolent Boss: Miss Fortini. When it's clear that Eilis is suffering from homesickness, she allows her to take time off so that she can be consoled by Father Flood. She also provides fashion advice to her for her date with Tony at Coney Island.
  • Big Applesauce: But of course. Eilis however does draw a distinction between Brooklyn, where she lives and Manhattan - saying she's never actually been to that part.
  • Bitch Alert: Miss Kelly's first scene has her refusing to serve a customer because she apparently should have bought the relevant item the day before. Her second has her firing Eilis when the latter tells her she'll be moving to America - despite offering to keep working until she leaves.
  • Brainy Brunette: Eilis is given the distinction of being the first girl in Mrs Keogh's boarding house to pass any exam at all.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Tony's younger brother Frankie comes across this way.
  • Call-Back: An experienced traveller helps Eilis out on the boat trip to New York, giving her advice. Eilis herself is now in this role as she journeys back to America, offering help to another girl emigrating.
  • Character Development: Eilis gets a ton of it over the course of the story, as she goes from a very insecure and shy young woman uncertain about her place in her new country to a confident adult who embraces it by the end.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: As Tony and Eilis get married at City Hall, he's chatting to an Irish guy whose wife is from a similar area to Eilis. It turns out she's in correspondence with a relative there who mentions Eilis's marriage to Miss Kelly, and she finds out about Eilis's marriage this way.
  • The City vs. the Country: Deconstructed. Eilis's story plays out initially like Plot A - she misses home immensely and is tempted to move back home after her sister dies. However she quickly realises homesickness passes and she realises exactly what she's finally escaped from, and commits fully to her new life in America.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Any Irish who come back from New York are dressed in bolder colors in contrast to the subdued ones in Ireland.
  • Coming of Age Story: For Eilis, who goes from Naïve Newcomer in America to Happily Married and well adjusted in the big city.
  • Cool Big Sis:
    • Rose to Eilis. Missing her is Eilis's main source of angst in the first part of the film.
    • Eilis' bunkmate. After first seeming very rude and standoffish, she's incredibly kind and compassionate to Eilis after she gets sick, gets revenge on her behalf by locking the others out of the bathroom, then gives her advice on how to survive the rest of the journey and what to do and not to do upon arrival.
    • Sheila seems to fill a surrogate role of this to Eilis, judging by their bathroom conversation.
    • As do Patty and Diana, despite initially seeming to be a pair of Alpha Bitches and resentful that Eilis gets the best room in the house instead of either of them. They help her with makeup, teach her how to eat spaghetti without making a mess, tell her that she needs to buy a bathing suit for her beach date with Tony, etc.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs Keogh, who acts as a surrogate mother to all the girls in the boarding house.
  • Costume Porn: Lovely 50's style outfits and hairstyles galore.
  • Country Mouse: Eilis naturally moving from Ireland to New York.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Enniscorthy is presented as a nice Arcadia that Eilis misses - but it's also full of Gossipy Hens and Stepford Smiler couples.
  • Culture Clash: Averted. Despite Tony's concern that at least one of his brothers might not like her (he was beaten up by Irish kids and the local Irish cops didn't do anything), his family instantly adores her and she them.
  • Dance of Romance: How Tony meets Eilis. Sheila is trying to invoke this (it seems that all of the girls are, in fact), continually going to the dances hoping to find a new lover.
  • Disappeared Dad: Eilis and Rose's died some years ago.
  • Foreshadowing: Eilis is walking along a street and idly glances upward. The camera lingers on a healthy green tree with a notable dead branch. She pays it no mind. A short time later, Eilis's "family tree" loses a branch with Rose's death.
    • She also asks Sheila, one of her housemates, why she's not married, and is told it's because Sheila's husband left her. Eilis later considers leaving Tony to stay in Ireland, although she decides not to.
  • Gossipy Hens: Downplayed but still present. Eilis is told about what she's apparently going to do with her life before she's even done it.
  • Hate Sink: Mrs. Kelly represents everything hateful about a small-town gossiping busy body. Many older viewers noted the sad Truth in Television surrounding her.
  • Home Sweet Home: Deconstructed. Eilis realises exactly why she wanted to escape from her home in the first place.
  • I Choose to Stay: Inverted. Eilis's family and friends want her to stay. She doesn't.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: A Decon-Recon Switch. Eilis ultimately does find a happy and fufilling new life in America but only after tremendous homesickness and being seriously tempted to return to Ireland for good. The film does not pull any punches about the grimmer side of this trope either whether it be immigrants who never truly find a home in their new country or the family and friends left behind who essentially lose someone for good.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Eilis's friends implying they'd like her to stay in Enniscorthy. None of them know she has a husband back in New York. And in their defence, in the 1950s the only contact with someone would be by letter - and they were lucky they got to see Eilis again at all.
  • Ironic Echo: After returning to Ireland, Eilis states "I'd forgotten", referring to all the things she loved about her hometown. After Miss Kelly confronts her about her marriage, Eilis declares "I'd forgotten", this time referring to everything she hated.
  • Irony: Only after the death of her sister and marriage to Tony does Eilis find in Ireland the future she was looking for when she went to Brooklyn.
  • Italian-American Caricature: Downplayed. Eilis falls in love with Tony Fiorello, a second-generation Italian-American plumber with a big family. They talk with their hands and are impressed by how well she eats spaghetti, to which she explains she learned how from an Italian girl in her boarding house.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Miss Kelly is a self-righteous busybody, but she's right in that it's inappropriate for Eilis to date Jim, given that she's married. While this does make Eilis remember that she wanted to get away from this suffocating small town, it also spurs her Heel Realization about her behaviour.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Eilis' boss at the department store. Initially a sink or swim mentor, she softens when Eilis deals with homesickness. Later gives fashion advice to Eilis for her trip to Coney Island.
  • Limited Wardrobe: When packing for New York, Rose notes that every single item of clothing Eilis owns can fit in a small suitcase, including her shoes. Even after getting a job in New York and buying new clothes, Eilis is shown repeating clothes throughout the movie. Some of the more distinctive outfits (for example, the bright yellow dress and green swimsuit) are very noticeably worn several times, which is realistic for anyone but even more so for a poor immigrant.
  • The Lost Lenore: Downplayed. Eilis's father is this for her mother, but she doesn't feel the full effects until she loses one daughter to America and the other dies.
  • Love Confession: Tony to Eilis, which she doesn't initially reciprocate.
  • Love Triangle: In a sense. While Eilis visits home, she falls in with a local man Jim.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: While waiting to use the shared bathroom, one of the roommates expresses her desire to remarry to Eilis by saying, "I want to be standing outside my own bathroom, yelling at some fool with hair growing out of his ears to hurry up, wishing I was back here, chatting with you."
  • My Beloved Smother: Implied with Eilis and Rose's. Eilis is only home a day or two and suddenly she's trying to manipulate her into getting a local job, and trying to get her hitched with a local man. Her final scene looks like a subversion, as while she's saddened that Eilis has married someone else, she doesn't stop her and implies she just needs time to process it. Partially justified in that Eilis' mother is deeply grieving, and her desire to keep Eilis close is understandable.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Eilis and Tony marry shortly before she returns to visit her mother.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: The early 1950s are a pretty place, with lots of charming and rather innocent wholesome young folks - in both Ireland and New York - but not everything is rosy. Perhaps most notably in an age where only the rich could fly trans-Atlantic (and even then it wasn't by jet airliner in six hours) everyone else had to take the boat - and the boat was not as romantic as it seems, with cramped cabins, and the unpleasant side effects of seasickness.
  • Oireland: Averted. Many Irish characters appear and not a single one of them fits into this stereotype.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Father Flood. He's Irish but his accent is quite all over the place - which is likely to indicate that it's faded from living in America for so long.
  • The Place: Brooklyn. Doubles as One-Word Title.
  • Potty Failure: Subverted. Eilis can't get into the shared bathroom because it's locked (because the person using it is also very ill). She barely—but successfully—manages to find a bucket instead.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Downplayed. Tony is a plumber and still lives with his parents, while Jim is about to inherit a big family house.
  • Second Love: What Sheila is striving for anyway.
  • Scenery Porn: Very subtly done, as Brooklyn and Ireland are presented as very pretty, yet still overall normal and realistic looking.
  • Shrinking Violet: Subverted. Eilis comes across as this due to homesickness. But if one judges by her scenes in Ireland, and after she opens up to Tony - she's quite the Motor Mouth.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Eilis becomes this at the end of the film.
  • Small Town Boredom: Eilis's main reason for moving. Ironically when she returns for a visit, her attitude changes.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Subverted. Tony tells Eilis he'd like her to do the accounting for when he opens up his own business. This is in contrast to back in Ireland. Although Eilis would have a job in Enniscorthy, the Marriage Bar would have required her to give it up and become a housewife should she marry an Irish boy.
  • Their First Time: Tony and Eilis. And realistically awkward too—they don't get fully undressed and they struggle to keep quiet and to get things over with quickly so as not to be overheard and caught by anyone.
  • Those Two Guys: Patty and Diana in the boarding house. They're never seen apart.
  • Welcome to the Big City: Actually averted. Eilis never encounters any scary big city behaviours.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Averted. Just when it seems like Eilis returns to America without ever giving Jim an explanation for her abrupt departure, we see him reading a "Dear John" letter.