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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Brooklyn is a poignant period drama about Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman who immigrates to New York from Ireland in the early 1950s. An adaptation of Col Toibin's 2009 novel, the movie features infrequent strong language (a couple uses of "f--k," as well as "s--t" and "bitch") and quite a bit of romance, including several kisses and a quick first-time sex scene between a committed young couple (nothing graphic, but it includes some moaning and movements). There's one disturbing moment when a dead body is shown; afterward, a family grieves. Another scene depicts the unpleasant effects of seasickness in a vivid manner. This is an ideal film for teens and parents to see together and to discuss the historical and relevant current themes about family, immigration, independence, and what makes a place feel like home.
What's the story?
Based on Colm Toibin's award-winning 2009 novel, BROOKLYN follows young Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), an Irish girl who moves from County Wexford to New York in 1952. There are no worthwhile jobs for Eilis in her hometown of Enniscorthy, so her older sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott), arranges for a Brooklyn priest (Jim Broadbent) to sponsor Eilis' immigration. Upon arrival, Eilis lives in a boarding house run by Ms. Kehoe (Julie Walters) with several other single women and works as a shopgirl at a Brooklyn department store. Lonely and sad, Eilis' prospects change when she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a handsome Italian-American plumber who happens to like Irish girls. He sweetly pursues Eilis, who starts taking accounting classes at night after working all day. Their blossoming relationship brings Eilis out of her shell, but when a tragedy unexpectedly takes her back to Ireland, she feels divided between the pull of her ancestral home and the promise of her new one.
Is it any good?
Ronan is a radiant revelation in this beautifully acted, timeless story about leaving everything you know behind to find your way in a new world. Director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby focus the adaptation on Eilis' development from shy and lonely to smitten and surprisingly resourceful. Surrounded by a talented supporting ensemble, Ronan shines as she navigates the streets of 1950s Brooklyn (although it's really Montreal). Broadbent is genial as Eilis' priest and connection to home, and Walters is hilarious as Eilis' nosey but well-meaning landlady, who makes sure to keep all her girls (including Eve Macklin and Arrow star Emily Bett Rickards) in check.
The real sparks are due to Ronan's chemistry with newcomer Cohen (The Place Beyond the Pines), whose Tony looks like a cleaner-cut young Marlon Brando. Tony is from a blue-collar Italian family that normally doesn't socialize with the Irish, but the moment he spots Eilis at a dance, he's a goner. Their romance is slow-burning, sweet, and full of delightful moments, like when Eilis practices eating spaghetti before having her first meal at Tony's family's apartment, or how he faithfully waits for her after every night class to walk her back home. When a tragedy requires Eilis to return to Ireland, it's clear she feels the pull of home. She's no longer a mousey little sister but full of American optimism, confidence, and romance -- which makes attractive bachelor Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) notice. Caught between two men and two lives, Eilis must choose between the comfort of the past and the uncertainty of the future. Home isn't where you live, but where your heart belongs -- something Crowley portrays in a way that will make you cry bittersweet tears.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Brooklyn portrays the plight of immigrants. How is this depiction different than other films about immigrants? What challenges did Eilis face? How are those challenges different than those of modern immigrants?
The movie explores issues of ethnicity and gender in the 1950s. How does being Irish distinguish Eilis from her American housemates -- and her Italian boyfriend?
What roles do sex and love play in the story -- and in the characters' lives? Does one necessitate the other? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
- In theaters: November 4, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: March 15, 2016
- Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Jim Broadbent, Domhnall Gleeson
- Director: John Crowley
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character Strengths: Courage
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: a scene of sexuality and brief strong language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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