I recently undertook the task of taking in all eight of the Best Picture nominees for last year's Academy Awards and decided to write brief reviews for each as I go through. In no particular order (other than their immediate availability at my local library) I happened on Brooklyn as the first of the bunch.
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
I immediately found a personal connection to this film just based on the type of story it tells. Much like Eilis, the young girl leaving Ireland for America, my father left his native Norway at a young age to come to school in America. The timing for his arrival would have mirrored that of the film so I enjoyed being able to see what he may have encountered when he arrived in this country. It made me truly appreciate what a struggle it was for someone to leave, spending days on a boat crossing the ocean with no immediate way to call home. There was no Skype, texting, email, etc. so you truly were cut off from your family back home and this film captures that dramatically.
Despite the connection I had, the early part of the film was a bit slow for me. Much of the first half is used to set up the conflict of the second half of the film when Eilis is called home by the death of a family member. The young man she meets in Brooklyn doesn't want her to return home to Ireland, but understands that she must take care of things with her family. When she returns to Ireland, she starts to fall for a local Irish boy and the personal conflict arrives front and center.
Overall, the acting in this film is top notch. With thick Irish accents and some wonderful Brooklyn accents, you truly feel like you are in this world. The subtle references to the (at the time) Brooklyn Dodgers vs. New York Yankees rivalry helps place the events in time along with the attention to detail of the fashion of the day. When Eilis first goes to Coney Island, her lady friends help her select an appropriate "beach outfit." Upon her return to Ireland, her friends are amazed at the bathing suit she dons for a beach date on the other side of the Atlantic.
My last note about the acting is that I was happy to see young Domhnall Gleeson in a more dramatic role that was refreshingly different from his turns as Bill Weasley in the final two Harry Potter films and General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
If you are looking for a departure from typical "Hollywood" films, I highly recommend Brooklyn. Be patient with it as it does start a little slowly, but trust that you will feel Eilis' anxiety in the second half.