When I saw the trailer to this film I wanted to see it straight away. It’s about an Irish girl emigrating to New York in the 1950’s. She falls in love with an Italian boy, but then has to return to Ireland when there is a family tragedy. Whilst there she meets an Irish boy and there you have the drama – a life changing choice to be made. Which boy? Which country?
The film is based on a book by Colm Toibin. After what happened to A Time Traveller’s Wife and One Day when they were turned into films, I wanted to read the book before I saw the film. Whilst I thought the film of A Time Traveller’s Wife was a great adaption, it just couldn’t come close to the depth and beauty of Henry and Clare’s story. Anne Hathaway absolutely ruined One Day for me. If I had seen the film first, I don’t think I would have bothered with the book. My policy is always read the book first.
I read the book in 24 hours and I would recommend it, it’s a great story, really well written. However I could not like Eilis. I wanted to, but she was just too frustrating to me. I don’t know if it’s because it was a man writing a female character and for me, he just didn’t write her as I would have wanted her to be. Or perhaps he wanted to write her that way, he wanted you to be agitated by her passivity, telling you her deepest thoughts and then her not speaking or acting on them. It drove me wild!!
Once I finished the book I was desperate to go and see the film, as I hoped they would make changes. Give the main character a bit more gumption. Perhaps even change the ending. And they did thankfully. There were no radical changes, no major plot alterations and the characters in the film were all close representatives of themselves in the book.
Saoirse Ronan played Eilis beautifully and the script gave her permission to be a person I could root for. In the book it didn’t really feel like she fell in love with anyone. The men certainly fell in love with her, she just seemed to go along with it, not complaining, but certainly not swept off her feet. I loved the character of Tony. So sure, so steady, nothing hidden. I think any woman would want to be loved like he loved her. Emory Cohen was wonderful as Tony, only too short.
I have loved Domhnall Gleeson ever since I saw ‘About Time’, which funnily enough is incredibly close to A Time Traveller’s Wife but not so heavy and Bill Nighy is in it, being awesome as ever. In Brooklyn, Gleeson plays Jim Farrell, the other man. He does it very well.
And without spoiling the plot for you, I much prefer how the film portrays that plot line. It’s less messy. But then we want films to be less messy don’t we. Somehow a book can have ambiguity and untidy endings, but I feel deeply unsatisfied if a film leaves you hanging.
So here’s my “issue” with Brooklyn. Eilis never makes a decision for herself! She moves to New York because her sister says so. She works in a shop because the priest sorts it out for her. Someone else enrolls her in college. Tony decides she’s the one for him. She starts going out with Jim because her family and friends want her to. She can’t even decide which room she wants in the boarding house! Even the big, dramatic move at the end is because her hand is forced.
The reason I liked the film so much is, added to the fab outfits the ladies wear, where Eilis was so passive and docile in the book, they actually give her a little more character in the film. And although the ending is essentially the same, the film portrays her actually owning the decision for herself, rather than her just doing what someone else tells her to do.
See the film for sure. And if you have read the book or do in the future, let me know if there is a way of liking Eilis more. I wonder if I’m not meant to. In which case it’s wonderfully written but give me a Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Morley any day.