10 March 2016

On the Supposed Privilege of Desirability

John Crowley's Brooklyn is a story of love, resilience, and a willingness to finally choose.

The film follows a young Irish woman, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), as she immigrates to Brooklyn, leveraging her geographical shift to begin anew. As she commences her new educational path, difficult daytime job, and unexpected romance with an Italian fellow, Tony (Emory Cohen), she must ultimately decide where her true home is and who she wants to become.

Soon enough, after her peers and her host (Julie Walters) help her adjust to the new city, Brooklyn becomes the home for her budding romance with Tony. And yet, when she returns to spend a month with her mother in Ireland, Eilis realizes that, with her academic and emotional growth in Brooklyn, she possesses the tools to decide her future: She may return to America or, unlike before, maintain a steady and well-respected career as a bookkeeper, and a new romance with a local, Jim (Domhnall Gleeson).

Permeating her inner divide, engendered by her double life on each side of the Atlantic is Eilis' newfound self-confidence, allowing her only major problem to be the choice of keeping her promise to Tony—consecrated in a secret civil marriage before her departure—or allowing her romance with Jim at home to develop more fully. By maintaining the secrecy of her marriage on her visit home, she confirms Nathaniel Hawthorne's age-old contention: "No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true." Eventually, Eilis must decide upon her life, and choose between her loves to finally return to a life of full honesty.

Ultimately, Brooklyn encapsulates the overwhelmingly unsatisfying, yet time-tested and veritable, truth that, to overcome grand emotional and relational changes, one must only find a direction and follow it. Subconscious resilience and conflict avoidance, with the help of a new love, will fix the rest.

Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) holds Tony (Domhnall Gleeson), her Brooklyn lover, in a local park.
Image Courtesy of Athena Cinema and Fox Searchlight Pictures

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