I was surprised to learn a couple of years ago that my family tree has recent genealogical roots outside the United States. Whereas my mother’s family has descendants that go back to the American Revolution, I discovered that my paternal grandmother actually left Russia to come to the United States when she was a young girl. That finding triggered my interest in learning more about the immigrant experience.
One thought-provoking depiction can be found in the lauded movie, Brooklyn, which was released in 2015. Sadly, this movie remains under many people’s radar, even though Saoirse Ronan was nominated for an Academy Award.
Because I believe more people should enjoy this gem of a movie, I’m offering four reasons why you should put Brooklyn at the top of your queue:
- A view of what it’s like to immigrate to America. We – along with citizens of many other nations – continue to focus on the perceived ills of immigration. However, the United States has always been a melting pot that attracts a unique mix of people – such as Steve Jobs, Ayn Rand, Madeline Albright, Sergey Brin, Henry Kissinger and Albert Einstein – whose ideas have influenced our nation and world. Brooklyn looks at immigration through a different lens by focusing on the story of one young woman, Eilis Lacey, who leaves her ancestral home of Ireland to move to the United States in the 1950s. The movie’s scenes move back and forth between Enniscorthy (Ireland) and Brooklyn. Therefore, you see the draw of both places on Eilis’ heart – the pull of family and tradition vs. the opportunity to start anew and explore.
- A view of earlier “turf wars” in the melting pot that’s the United States. Upon arriving in America, Eilis is swept into an Irish community that helps her learn how to acclimate to the United States and deal with her homesickness. However, she soon starts meeting people from a variety of cultures, including a suitor from an Italian family. The telling scene is when he invites her to his home to have dinner with his family. During the meal, the suitor’s young brother notes that the family hates the Irish. That scene alone illustrates the walls that we often instinctively put up – and how getting to know someone outside your “tribe” (however you may define your group) can bring down these self-made walls and help everyone discover how many things we actually have in common.
- Another moving performance by the amazing Domhnall Gleeson. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention before (and I must not have been, since he played Bill Weasley in the beloved Harry Potter franchise), but I started really noticing this Irish actor recently. I first remember seeing Gleeson in ExMachina; he played a young computer nerd who was trying to impress his boss by assessing a robot with artificial intelligence. He showed up again in the 2012 version of Anna Karenina (which I finally watched on DVD earlier this year). In Brooklyn, Gleeson is cast as the Irish suitor who encourages Eilis to change her mind and return to her native country. Gleeson also appeared in the latest Star Wars film, playing General Hux. These diverse roles allow Gleeson to show off his tremendous range and I believe he’s an actor to watch closely in the future.
- Beautiful storytelling with a great cast and attention paid to details. Brooklyn’s story is very sweet. The film has no shootings, no bombs, no violence. Instead, you get to appreciate a great cast of character actors who truly listen and react to each other. The sets and costumes take you back to the 1950s (or if you’re like me, what you’d imagine the 1950s to be). This movie gives you the chance to immerse yourself in another time and place for nearly two hours – after which you’ll emerge with a fresh perspective on immigration and renewed thankfulness for the United States.
Brooklyn can be streamed on Amazon Video, You Tube, iTunes, Vudu and Google Play Movies and TV. This movie also is available on DVD through Netflix.
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