Having lived abroad myself for several years, I felt really close to a young Irish woman who sets off to America in search of adventure and better economic prospects. However, several months later what she actually finds is her life back home might have not been so bad after all…
In 1952, Irish girl Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) emigrates to the USA and settles in Brooklyn – an area of New York City traditionally known for its large immigrant population. In Brooklyn, she falls in love with a young “Italian fella” (Emory Cohen), but also suffers from really bad homesickness.
When problems arise in Ireland, Eilis makes a month-long trip back home. While it was hard to get any qualified work before she emigrated, Eilis is now offered a job as an accountant, which makes her question whether it was the right decision to emigrate.
In addition, a young “Irish fella” (Domhnall Gleeson) starts to court her, which doesn’t make it any easier. Torn between her old home in Ireland and her new life in New York, Eilis has to make a choice…
Surprisingly, a lot of the scenes for Brooklyn were shot in Montréal, Canada instead of New York. But of course there are some typical New York / Brooklyn landmarks, too. The boarding house that Eilis stays at in Brooklyn looks like one of those typical “Victorian style” houses you will find all over New York City (especially Brooklyn and Greenwich Village).
Eilis and her boyfriend Tony also make a beach day trip to Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, which was shot on location.
A lot less people and more tranquillity can be seen in the beautiful Irish beach scenes, which were shot at Curracloe Beach in County Wexford, Ireland. The setting for the Irish village was the 10,000 inhabitants village of nearby Enniscorthy in South-East Ireland.
I really liked the fact that actual Irish actors such as Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson were cast for this film as it made the story seem a lot more authentic. Saoirse, who was born in New York city, but grew up in Ireland and therefore could relate very well to her character, is brilliant in whatever she does. I also liked the fact how dating in the 1950s was presented. It looks like men were still real gentlemen back then.
What I didn’t like so much was that a lot of scenes ended abruptly before a new scene began. For example, in one scene Saoirse is on the ship, in the next she is having dinner in her new boarding house without the audience seeing how she got there.
My verdict: A lovingly made tale about life choices that not only people who live or have lived abroad can feel with. Plus, amazing time travel into the 1950s!
**** 4 out of 5 stars
Travel Tip 1: Discover what it's like to emigrate in the interactive exhibition at Germany's Emigration Center, Bremerhaven.
Travel Tip 2: To walk in Eilis' foot steps, check out my list of the best bits of Brooklyn.
Ever been to Brooklyn or Ireland or actually lived abroad? Share your experiences in a comment below!