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With the exception of The Host, I have always found Saoirse Ronan to have a stable, and reliable, film record. With this film, though, I found myself wondering if she really fell into some sort of love triangle story in which she was to pick between an American boy and an Irish one. Well, that is part of the story, but to solely focus on just that would be a disservice. More below.
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
For Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) in 1950s Ireland, there is nothing. Finding work is difficult and the well to do men present no interest. Luckily, though, rather than stay in Ireland, stuck working for this witch of a woman named Ms. Kelly (Brid Brennan), her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) hooks her up with this church in Brooklyn which helps girls get on their feet. Something Eilis loves at first but, once she gets to Brooklyn, it is sort of a hell.
For one, while the caretaker of the boarding house she lives at is friendly, the other girls are a bit catty. Then, on top of that, she knows nobody. There are no friends, no relatives, and her only connection to her sister and mother are through letters. So, needless to say, homesickness comes quick and swift. Luckily, though, a young man named Tony (Emory Cohen) makes her acquaintance at a local Irish dance. Leading to what you’d think would be a slight culture clash, since there seems to be some issue with local Irish cops, but things pretty much pleasant.
The major issue of the film though comes with Eilis returning to Ireland, for a serious matter, and her meeting Jim (Domhnall Gleeson). He is someone who has been looking after her family and it seems everyone is pushing for them to be together. Then, on top of that, a job presents itself to Eilis, so she is presented all she could have wanted before leaving Ireland. Leaving the question of whether or not, after adjusting to Brooklyn, would she give America up, and all her new relationships there, for what she desired before going in the first place?
Ronan, to me, helps you peer into the life of someone who, willingly, leaves their home country for the sake of opportunity. Now, some topics, like finding a job, learning your qualifications mean nothing and other issues some modern immigrants may have aren’t part of her story, but the issues of being so far from home are. For whether it is being unable to rush by a family member’s side when they are ill; being coerced, as an adult, to adjust to a foreign place, people, and their culture; or simply being forced to deal with whatever arrangement was made so you could come to America, legally, Eilis covers quite a bit. Not necessarily to the point where it is like you get the full experience, but enough to hopefully inspire empathy.
This has to be one of the few films, in recent memory, which has had a strong support cast. For whether it is the caretaker of the boarding house, Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters), or the girls who live there; Tony’s siblings; or even the handful of people we meet when Eilis is in Ireland, I got that rare feeling that there was a story within each character that was more than what we got to see on screen. And, on top of that, it could very well be more compelling than let on.
Despite being nearly 2 hours, you don’t really feel that time hit you. Between watching Eilis deal with homesickness, falling in love, needing to head back to Ireland, then decide whether she will go back to America or not, you are well entertained.
Being that Rose is such a big part of Eilis’ life, and a major part of the story, it sucked that there wasn’t a huge amount of information given to make her someone you could truly care about. We are told why Eilis does, but unfortunately don’t get a firsthand relationship with the character.
I found it weird that despite Nancy (Eileen O’Higgins) being Eilis’ best friend, they seemingly didn’t contact each other at all while Eilis was in America.
On The Fence
The romance between Eilis and Tony is cute, and likable, but isn’t on the level you are going to swoon or see any serious topics worth commentary. I mean, outside of her not being the first to say “I Love You,” and her having to think about it, there isn’t anything major between them which makes their relationship stand out.
Final Thought(s): Worth Seeing
What is presented by Ronan and company brings insight, a few laughs, and the type of film which seems to want to both entertain you, as well as let the actors show you the skills of their craft. Yet, despite the praise, I will not say this is the type of film worth taking a journey to a nearby metropolitan area to see. The reason being? While Eilis is likable, as is most of the cast, they never grab hold of you. Like, there isn’t a moment in which you get teary eyed as Eilis is dealing with homesickness or when Sheila (Nora-Jane Noone) talks about her husband leaving her, your mood doesn’t shift. Then with Rose, someone who is so important to the movie, again it is like something was omitted, or watered down, so that perhaps the audience wouldn’t get bored. At least, that is the way I feel.
Even with that said, I would definitely check this out when it becomes convenient to see. It presents a lovely love story; gives insight into what it is like to be an immigrant, without having a traumatic story attached; and, for the most part, it does well with its 2-hour length.