Year Released: 2015
Directed by: John Crowley
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen
(PG-13, 111 min.)
“Where thou art, that is home.” Emily Dickinson
This sweet little gem of a film is a tropical island in a cinematic sea of violence and nihilism. It’s a lovely reminder of old fashioned film making that probes our better selves instead of laying bare our baser instincts.
Like the best of stories, this one is simple. It’s the characters and not the plot that counts. Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) leaves her small Irish town and everyone she knows and loves for America, to make her way in 1950s Brooklyn. There is not much for her in Ireland, a Sunday only job working in a bakery under the beady-eyed harridan owner, and a slew of slick-haired young men who all seem clones of each other.
That doesn’t mean leaving is easy, though. It’s hard to say who looks more forlorn as the large ship departs, Eilis or her mother (Jane Brennan) and sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) throwing kisses from the shore.
And the long sea voyage is not without trauma, either. This one in the form of terrible seasickness augmented by an ill-advised hearty supper and being locked out of her shared bathroom.
However, Eilis has none of the hardship and desperation some other immigrants have faced. Brooklyn’s Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), and her sister Rose have made all the arrangements. Eilis has a place at a respectable boarding house and soon she lands a job at a fancy department store.
These creature comforts cannot quell her homesickness, though. Only time can do that as Father Flood tells her. “Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It will pass.”
Of course, something else speeds her recovery in the person of Tony, the Italian boy she meets at a dance. While much of the Oscar buzz surrounds Saoirse Ronan’s Eilis, the knockout performance, in Different Drummer’s opinion, is Emory Cohen’s Tony.
He has an irresistible charm, a vulnerable masculinity reminiscent of a young Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront, or James Dean in Rebel without a Cause. He treats Eilis to the kind of coaxing courtship that Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky lavished on Adrian. Tony is patient, boyish, and utterly without guile, and we fall for him as certainly as Eilis does.
A highlight of the great ensemble cast is their humor, an ingredient sorely missing from recent films such as Spectre, and the barrage of grim and hyper-violent baggage that has bombarded us this fall. Stephanie Merry sums up some of Hollywood’s more brutal offerings in these Oscar-hyped holidays.
Why does Hollywood want to punish us?
This year’s Oscars aren’t just heavy — it’s a given that the weightiest dramas pop up in theaters when Academy members are preparing their ballots. But this time around, the movies are more than serious. They’re nightmare-inducing. You’ve got a bear trying to eat a man and slow-motion throat-slitting; a teenager held captive in a shed and dead bodies hidden behind drywall. Just to name a few.
Brooklyn is the agreeable exception. The boarding house dinners, presided over by the stern but loveable Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters), have a subtle humor, with Mrs. Kehoe being a young, less snobbish Americanized version of Maggie Smith’s inimitable Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey.
The bevy of boarders, with their advice on everything from romance to the intricacies of eating pasta, serves as a less severe Greek chorus. They are giggling guides to newcomer Eilis as she slowly gains in confidence and sophistication.
Also refreshing is the portrayal of the Catholic Church, at least in the person of the benevolent Father Flood. It is he who arranges for Eilis to go to night school to study accounting. A job at a department store, however distinguished the retailer, is not what he wishes for Eilis. Given the devastation that the Oscar bound Spotlight portends in its portrayal of the rampant sexual abuse and the Catholic Church's cover up of it in Boston, this positive note provides a bit of a balance.
Another subtle point is the acknowledgment of America as a land of opportunity. The best contrast comes between Tony and an Irish rival who crops up in the second part of the film. Tony, a plumber, has great plans. He and his family have bought land on Long Island. With the help of his brothers, carpenters and such, they plan to build their own homes there and then build others to sell. The working class plumber has that entrepreneurial spirit that built America.
Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), in Ireland, also has high hopes. “He’s a catch for somebody,” Eilis’s mother tells her. But Jim’s fortunes lie not in any skill, plans, or ambition. They lie in the fact that he is about to inherit the rather luxurious family home.
A unexpected character inconsistency in Eilis is the only flaw in an otherwise picture perfect offering. This exquisite film takes its time and charms us along the way.
Not to miss.
Our unworldly Eilis has never been out of Ireland before, and she certainly has never eaten Italian food. Talk about a grim and sheltered life! So when her Italian beau, Tony, invites her to have dinner with his family, she has to learn how to handle those unwieldy noodles without slopping sauce on herself or – heaven help her – Tony’s mother.
Luckily, her two boarding house girl friends are up to the task and give Eilis a complete run down, without the sauce, of course. Instead, they merely inform her of the several times she would have sauced herself, the wallpaper, or several members of Tony’s family. It is one of the funnier scenes in the film.
By the time of the actual dinner, Elis is such a pro at twisting the strands on her fork that even Tony’s mother is impressed.
Our recipe gives pasta an Irish twist. What a great blend of two immigrant cultures we have in this Linguini with Corned Beef recipe. Bathed in a creamy white wine sauce with Irish White Cheddar, this is sure to please. My only change, except the name – from the unseasonal St. Patrick’s Linguini – has been to substitute olive oil for canola oil. My Italian mother and my Irish father would have approved..
Our delightful culinary marriage is courtesy of Guy Fiere from television’s “Guy’s Big Bite.”
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup small diced carrots
1 cup diced cabbage
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups cooked corned beef, sliced and shredded
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 cups grated Irish white Cheddar or extra-sharp white Cheddar
3/4 cup fresh peas, or frozen
1 pound cooked linguini
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the carrots and cabbage and sauté until they are just tender and the cabbage is starting to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Stir in the shallots and garlic and sauté 3 to 4 minutes longer. Add the corned beef and black pepper and cook until the beef is starting to crisp, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally during this process. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add in the cream, half- and-half, the mustards and the horseradish. Let simmer until the sauce has tightened up a bit, about 5 minutes. Stir in the shredded cheese and adjust seasonings, as needed. Stir in the peas and the pasta; then transfer into a serving dish. Serve immediately garnished with the Parmesan.