No wonder, I haven’t written about my favorite films. I think they’re just too big for words. Or at least, I don’t think I have the ability to convey how much I love them and how much they’ve changed me. This post has been sitting in my drafts for the better part of a year. It’s time to dust it off and send it out there in the world wide web.
On my letterboxd, I put Brooklyn as one of my favorite films of all time. It was an effortless pick. It’s a very special film for me. Some people might not even understand how much I love it, because the plot is so simple. But it’s one of the few films that I’ve seen more than 3 times and every time I see it, it’s a profoundly cathartic experience.
The characters are very interesting because as much as they feel unique, they are generic icons.
The mother for example, is just that. A heartbroken and lonely mum. She’s also selfish, in a way that only a mother hen can be.
The sister is pretty “stereotypical” also. She’s the strong independent reliable older sister, who is completely incapable of expressing how she feels.
Tony is obviously an important character but his archetype is so simple: He’s just an adorable Italian plumber with a Brooklyn accent who likes Irish girls. Excellent casting choice honestly. (If you haven’t yet, check him out in the OA)
The priest is a father and a god, always bringing news, the good and the bad.
Jessica is the New Yorker, empathetic chauvinist, but a poser in a lot of ways.
The shop owner is a cartoonishly evil woman. Then again, a small town setting is a very efficient catalyst of hatred. I can only imagine what it must be like to be bullied by everyone for being a spinster. She’s in just 2 scenes but she’s easily the best villain of the decade!
My point is, even with very little screen time, these minor characters succeed in being very effective because they are generic enough to remind us of someone we know and specific enough to be more than a narrative tool.
And that’s only one of the aspects of Brooklyn’s effortless charm. It’s an easy film. It’s comforting. It doesn’t require too much sophistication or analytical distance. It’s just a love triangle between the past and future. Between home and the land of the free. With, gorgeous shots throughout, obviously.
The composition of most of the scenes is breathtaking.
Look how he’s totally washed out, blending with his surrounding, when Eilis’s yellow dress is a radiant pop screaming “I don’t belong here”
The costumes are to die for and they literally tell half the story:
Look how here, Tony’s outfit is a perfect combination of Eilis’s yellow top and the checkered tablecloth. He’s basically her anchor in Brooklyn.
In the same way, Eilis’s cardigan and swimsuit show that she is still attached to Ireland.
There are also beautiful echoes everywhere you look. The beach scenes couldn’t be more different:
And the dancing scenes also:
Notice how the background in Ireland is always so empty.
The acting, the plot, the costumes and the mise en scene are all *gorgeous*.
But that’s not all.
I also love the movie’s take on what it is to be an immigrant. In many ways, I think it’s saying that you have to be heartless to be an immigrant. You either leave your heart behind, loose it in the ocean or break it and take half of it with you. And that’s something that really resonated with me, because I was on a plane coming home, when I first watched this film. ( Which is a sin, given how gorgeous this film is)
The movie also begs the question: What is it to be American?
Stand up straight.
Don’t be rude, or pushy, and don’t look too nervous.
Think like an American.
Look as if you know where you’re going.
That being said, I keep thinking about the ending, when Eillis says:
And then you will catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past, Someone who’s only yours. And you’ll realize that this is where your life is.
And I’m not quite sure what the 2017 strong independent woman version of it is.
Anyways, I never know how to end these things, so here’s a pic of Williamsburg Brooklyn I took on May 2016.