LFF Review: Brooklyn Feels Like Home
In a year featuring many overtly political films (Suffragette, Dheepan) the standout political film of this year’s London Film Festival might just be one of the quietest and unassuming. Brooklyn isn't really about much, it doesn't have an especially remarkable plot or remarkable characters, it moves at a quite a slow pace and rests its story on a rather simple personal conflict but within in it lies a context and premise that feels profoundly relevant.
Saorise Ronan’s character Eilis moves to New York as an immigrant , looking for work, not wanting to go but feeling she has to in the face of a lack of prospects in 1950’s Ireland. She struggles to assimilate into New York not in that she faces a lot of abuse or hostility (the worst it gets her boyfriend kid brother telling her that ‘We don’t like the Irish’ to the outrage of his family at the dinner table) but in that she misses home. ‘I wish that I could stop feeling that I want to be an Irish girl in Ireland’.
With the world currently shifting and people uprooting their homes and lives, not only fleeing wars, we often forget the notion of homesickness. Too often the benefits of migrating to a country where the economic, social and political conditions are more stable are trumpeted smugly and protectively by those holding the cards, damning those who leave their homes as opportunists, as if there’s every reason for them to migrate and nothing keeping them back. As it is for Eilis, the longing for home is always there, no matter the potential attractions of the new home, no matter the comparisons and logical reasoning, ‘home is home’ as Eilis’s Italian American boyfriend, Tony, tells her with sympathy.
Set in a period of history just after a war in which a portion of the world fled war and shifted to another portion of the world, Brooklyn is a potent and relevant reminder of the ever transitional notion of home. What is Eilis’s old home remains her true home and what is her new home becomes her children’s true home, just as Tony’s home was made by his parents and grandparents’s new home. No matter what the personal, political or economic contexts ‘home is home’ and those wary or critical of people seeking to redefine what home means to them and their families should do well to remember that.