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BROOKLYN: A Reflection of a Country’s History, a Reflection on a Personal History, a Reflection on Travel

In this December review, I first would love to wish everyone a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday. This movie is perfect for this time of year, as it is all about familial love and loving yourself.

This story is originally from a book of the same name by Colm Toibin. The movie, released in 2015, is directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby with the main character, Eilis Lacey, played by Saoirse Ronan. For those who are not familiar with Brooklyn, Brooklyn is a borough of New York City just like Manhattan or Queens. Many Irish immigrants settled there back in the day, but now it has grown into a very multicultural borough.

Brooklyn is about a young woman’s journey from her homeland, Ireland, to the United States as she finds her current opportunities limited in Ireland. She thinks that it is a simple change of land until she can return, but as her journey unfolds she begins to see that it is more than a change in country, but also a change in herself. She works through home sickness and continues her education in New York where she meets an Italian-descent young man who teaches her different American cultural norms. After a tragic event occurs in Ireland, she returns home and finds things are different, but is it enough to get her to stay? She must decide with which country, culture, and self she identifies the most with and where she really belongs.

Why It Is Special

For me, this movie represents the founding of America. As a proud American and first generation (more or less), I find this story reflects that of my ancestors’.

My origins are quite mixed and I have done a lot of research into my family tree. When I say I was more or less first generation it is only because my great grandfather was born in Pennsylvania in 1908. However, he moved to Canada when he was 16. And the rest of my family became Canadian until me (born in the 90’s) on my father’s side. My great great grandfather was born in Italy and came to America in 1900 and married another Italian.

Granted, Brooklyn takes place in the 1950’s, the process was the same. Just like the main character, my Italian ancestor came off a boat and had to go through American immigration, which is significantly easier than today.

However, my great great grandfather was not like her, as he wanted to erase his past and never return (per his name change and no record of him leaving North America). He didn’t even teach his children Italian and so my family grew up only on English, which is similar to the male character. Fast forward, my great grandfather married an Irish woman, which resembles the movie even further. This caused discord with my great great grandfather as Italians and Irish did not really get along, which the movie also expresses.

Fast forward even more, my mother comes to America from the Philippines. Instead of a boat, she takes a plane and had to go through an extensive visa process. She then meets my Canadian father and, well, here I am.

Two cultures coming together. Both leaving what they know to share in a new one. This is how part of my family lived and how I continue to live my own life.

Personal Note

My family’s history reflects the movie, but so does my own journey. I have lived far from my home on several occasions. I personally connected with the main character, Eilis, as I have experienced blinding home sickness. I have experienced intercultural dating. I have also experienced returning to where I called home and realized, it is no longer home. I have learned new things about myself that have made me more confident just like Eilis.

Though I proudly call myself American, I mean with my DNA, I am the very definition of a melting pot, I call home to many places: Buenos Aires, Prague, and now Montreal. Even within the United States there are different cultural norms which I also got to experience from San Diego to Boston.

Not only does this movie reflect the history of the United States, but I believe it is a big promoter of travel, living abroad, and going outside your comfort zone. Three things I am also a big proponent of.

For me, Brooklyn is a movie with many messages for anyone and everyone. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay in 2016.

Just because it is about an Irish girl in the 50’s in New York City doesn’t mean only Irish people in New York can relate. Perhaps you are French living in Quebec, perhaps you are American living in China, perhaps you are Australian living in Chile. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who has lived in a place different than where they grew up, to anyone who has experienced culture shock, to anyone who has loved someone from a different culture, to anyone who simply loves a love story, this movie has it all.

This article was written by a guest contributor

Marinella Yule

Marinella hails from her travel blog My Open Passport. She is a big fan of film, which was her second degree after Marketing in university. She is a lover of all genres, but tends to get drawn to documentaries, drama, action, and foreign films/series, as she also speaks Spanish and French.
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