I recently saw the movie Brooklyn (2015) directed by John Crowley and starring Saoirse Ronan. And so this post is really just my thoughts on the movie. It is not a review – I don’t believe in reviews.
I saw the trailer about two months ago and cried. But, I wouldn’t take that too seriously. Two months ago I was crying over everything. I was crying because I was in the US, studying, and I had to come back home because of the pandemic. I didn’t want to come back home. I was quite happy in the US, and I knew I wouldn’t feel the same at home now.
And this is part of why I’ve decided to dedicate an entire 30 minutes of writing to exploring and expressing my thoughts on the movie. The life of the protagonist and the recent events in my life are not too different. Two girls move to another country. At first, they are submerged in homesickness, and then they find a life for themselves in this new country, but the moment they find this happiness, they are sent back home. And at home, the prospect of returning back to the US feels as unlikely as a green sea.
I hate to say that I “relate” to the movie, but I do. It’s a parallel story, and seeing it on a screen made me feel an overabundance of things. In hindsight, I feel I was not wrong to cry watching the trailer.
Eilis as a protagonist was no one particularly spectacular, but I found a lot to admire about her. She was driven – she wanted to be an accountant. She took classes at night, while working in the day. This was in the 1950s – she was the only woman in the class.
Her life in Brooklyn isn’t particularly thrilling either. She doesn’t have wild nights out, or even all that many friends for that matter. I might even go as far as saying – her life was a bit dull. I think that it’s an outcome of homesickness, which in many ways can be similar to a much milder version of depression. You don’t want to do anything, you don’t feel like you should do anything. You don’t feel like you belong here – or anywhere. You want to go back, but you also don’t. You get lost in all these things, and get stuck.
But she gets pulled out of it by meeting someone and falling in love. While I can’t personally relate to that, it makes perfect sense to me. For the first three months I was in the US, I was sad, I didn’t do much. I would hardly ever read a book, listen to any music or go for a stroll – or just do anything. I would just hide away in my room, binge watch netflix and complain about things. Once I started making friends, everything got so much better. My life still wasn’t particularly interesting, but I enjoyed being where I was. While it’s not romantic love for me, there’s definitely a human or social element to making a new place home.
Another aspect I like about this is that while her life isn’t as fantastical or spectacular is those at home might think, or she might want, it is exclusively hers. This life in Brooklyn may be dull or unexciting, but it is hers and no one else has any control over it. At home in Ireland, she realises how those around her make decisions and choices for her, and recognises the independence she has in Brooklyn.
Something else I really loved about the movie was in the second act where Eilis is back home. Everyone assumes she’s back for good. And temporarily, she possibly thinks that too. She’s liking this new boy and she likes spending time with her friends. There’s nothing like the nature you grew up around, and she realises that this is something she misses in New York. But what she maintains throughout the movie is that she’s going back. She will go back to New York. She no longer considers herself as someone living in Ireland. She makes this quite clear in the final scene of the movie.
It’s this idea that Eilis has developed a relationship with this new place and that no one else gets it. Nobody else understands or empathises – or even tries to. And no one has to, they’re not obligated to think about this relationship, but to neglect its existence altogether is just…
Of course I don’t want to compare my life to Eilis’ at every opportunity, but that is the point of this post. I’m back home right now. Fortunately for me, everyone knows I will be going back. But there’s no idea of when I will go back. I maintain that I will, but that’s really it. And while my relationship with Boston isn’t being neglected by the people around me, it feels like it’s being neglected altogether. I have spent more time home under quarantine than I have in Boston this year.
But eventually, she goes back. And I have to hold on to that hope, and of course, enjoy myself while I’m home.