“I’d forgotten what this town was like,” says Eilis, played by Saoirse Ronan. She doesn’t say it loudly, but she says it with a perceptable force. One sentence immediately makes it clear that in a second she has made up her mind and the viewer knows that a point of no return has been reached.
Brooklyn is a beautiful movie in every aspect, one of the key ones being the natural, flowing simplicity. Things simply happen, events do not feel orchestrated as we follow the story of one human life, and the others connected to it.
The many scenes in slow motion occuring in the film happen naturally as well, trickling from the normal speed so subtly that you barely notice the change in pace. They depict that moment when you briefly separate yourself from what has just happened, and seem to be outside of the speed of things around you just for a few seconds. The scenes are wonderfully timed, floating easily along to the soundtrack by Michael Brook. It’s that easiness, that intuitive identifying with the story in each scene that underlines just how much hard work of a high quality went in to the film.
Another subject examined is both the finality and the changing nature of a decision. If you sailed to the United States all the way from Ireland, it wasn’t necessarily likely that your family would be able to come to visit, and vice versa. Uncertainty was part and parcel of the package, letters and the very rare phone call were the main means of communication, and the joy of opening an envelope from home would be remembered for weeks before the next one arrived. On the other hand, when Eilis has to go back home, despite her repeating that she will be sailing again, her family and friends simply assume she will stay. The distance between the two countries actually feels as enormous as it is. If you leave, you leave forever. If you don’t, then you don’t. That seems to be the view of most, except for Eilis, who broke out of the circle. But the distance remains, stretching out in front of her again and again.
We can all fall in to a pocket and forget ourselves, despite the existence of a newly built life. Grief, loss, youth, physical distance (once again), love, death all converge on Eilis and subsequent events remind us how easy it is to slide in to an oblivion of sorts. The opposite of homesickness. The question is, as always, what will happen next? What will the heroine decide, and will she?
Reading all the positive praise Saoirse Ronan is receiving for her acting makes me happy, because I enjoyed watching her immensely. She is the perfect fit for making emotions of magnitude clear and felt in the audience, even while appearing seemingly understated, reserved, even.
There is a dance scene at the beginning. It all surrounds Eilis, and the camera just lets her look on after her friend gets asked to dance, staying on her face. She is not part of her surroundings anymore and she knows it. This is conveyed much more effectively through remaining with her, as opposed to circling to the dancers twirling around the room.
Another touching and significant part of the movie is Eilis’s bond with her sister, who unknowingly gives her a gift for life, writing in one of her letters, “I am still by your side, even if I’m not.”
From the visual point of view (and I haven’t read the book) it might be a simple story, but the stories of a continuing life and mastering it are ultimately the most compelling.