Brooklyn is a young woman's tale of voyage and discovery. She departs from her home and family in 1950's Ireland to try a new life in a different land and culture, the US, but unlike most fairy tales about young women who depart from their beloved parents with a young prince, the heroine in Brooklyn has no promise of a prince (she is going to a Republic where Princes are discouraged from settling). Our heroine only has the dreams of her older sister who wants the best for her younger sister and has the resources to make the attempt to improve her younger sister's prospects and life.
The wicked stepmother role in this movie is filled by a meddling and gossipy woman who owns the store in Ireland where our heroine works part time. The wicked woman has a cruel tongue and a Grinch heart and enjoys inflicting her opinions and insults on her hapless customers who evidently have nowhere else to go to get their groceries. Our heroine winces at the storeowner's cruelties (none of which are directed to her, only the woman's bossiness), but she has no base of power of her own to escape or correct the woman. She is a young woman in a poor society with few prospects beyond being employed full time at the store.
But our heroine has an older sister who is her fairy godmother and who will give her the ability to improve herself and her prospects by using her own money as a book keeper for a local factory to send her younger sister to the United States to find a new world and way to improve herself. Our heroine stands on the deck of a boat looking at the New York City skyline and shore. Her voyage across the ocean has ended like that of many immigrants with the sight of life's possibilities. How will she face them and how will she deal with them?
Our heroine's sister (who is a heroine whose story is another movie that should be made) has found a priest (played by Jim Broadbent) to assist her sister's life in the new land (he finds her a job at a department store and helps her with her homesickness) and a rooming house with an Irish Landlady (played by the wonderful Julie Walters) who has just as sharp a tongue and definite ideas about people as the wicked storekeeper, but the Landlady has a kind heart. Her dependents thrive (not cringe and shrivel) under her care.
Our heroine has her setbacks, but she perserveres and prospers in Brooklyn NYC. And finds a very good and gentle young man (played by Emory Cohen, or is he playing? No one can be that charming and not be charming in real life, can they?), in plumbing with a large and welcoming Italian family, who is delighted and in love with her.
All goes well until our heroine's sister unexpectedly dies and our heroine goes back to Ireland to bury her sister and even place herself in her older sister's life (she becomes her mother's companion and takes over her sister's book keeping job at the factory). But her older sister wanted more for her and our heroine has to decide just exactly what she wants in her life.
The movie images show the contrasts between life in Brooklyn (and what it offers her) and life in Ireland. Brooklyn is full of people of all sorts and photographed in golden tones. Here, our heroine is at the beach with her Brooklyn boyfriend. There is a ferris wheel, the wheel of life, the highs and lows of life, in view. The boyfriend wears the golden tones ("The streets are paved with Gold.") of her new life. She wears the blue of the Irish old life, she has not yet fully accepted the new life offered to her yet. But she is warming up to it with that skirt.
Back in Ireland, after her sister's death, the tone has turned to cold blue colors. The beach looks cold and hypothermic-inducing as is the blue shirt that her Irish boyfriend wears. Our heroine is dressed in the warm yellow/gold of her life in the States that has transformed her. The beach is deserted except for the couple. No people, no highs, no lows.
What will she choose? Who will she choose? Which life will be hers? Her voyage to a new land has given her the power and the knowledge to choose for herself and that is as it should be.
The movie reminded me of another great film about a woman's voyage of discovery, I Know Where I Am Going. I wrote about it in the link. And I can highly recommend both films.
I did read in one place that this film had been dismissed as just a well-done Woman's Film. What makes The Revenant, a film about a bear mauled guy dragging himself across the snow, more important than this film? The subject? The misogyny?