As we reported on a few months ago, the number of people who have moved from one country to another is around a quarter of a billion. A lot of this is due to the unprecedented level of people displaced by violence: according to the UNHCR nearly 60 million people were internally displaced, a refugee or seeking asylum at the end of 2015. However, the vast number of those moving countries are trying to seek a better life for themselves and their families without facing the horrific “push factor” of violence and war.
With this in mind, I can heartily recommend the 2015 movie Brooklyn (warning: the link is for the trailer and annoyingly you get the entire plot from the trailer practically – why do they continually tell you everything in a trailer!!) We (Shan and I) sat down to watch the DVD earlier this week (yes, we still hire DVDs and no we don’t go to the movies anymore) after it had been recommended by a couple of people and were glad we did.
Essentially the story follows one young Irish woman, Eilis Lacey, (played brilliantly by Saoirse Ronan) who emigrates from small town Ireland in the 1950s to New York. In part Eilis is representative of the hundreds of thousands of young Irish who left their homeland during the “lost decade”. She has little foreseeable future in Ireland and no steady work.
On the other side of the Atlantic is a job and accommodation waiting for her. The decision to leave seems an easy one to make, yet the film conveys very well the loss that Eilis (and thousands like her) suffered from as she moved to a city without her family and with no friends or real knowledge about where she was going.
So while Eilis can be seen as representative of the fear, excitement, heartbreak and novelty that all migrants must go through to some extent, the movie concentrates on her story and her’s alone. We see her struggles with a first job while homesick, her boarding house and its inhabitants, and most importantly we see her first love. In this, the movie brilliantly captures the heart-in-mouth breathless excitement of first dates and the dawning realisation that you want to do everything with this particular person and be with them forever.
In fact, the best thing about this movie is the intimacy of it – a love story, told with restraint – but without the huge drama and emotional rollercoasters that so often are in today’s movies. By showing a story that so many of us can relate to: leaving home; starting a new job; moving cities; falling in love, the film not only allows us to relate to and sympathise with Eilis and all migrants, it also shows the powerful drama of one’s seemingly innocuous existence. The awesomeness of the everyday, perhaps.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be a film critic, but I did love this film and it did open my eyes very slightly to the difficulty of migrating. And the bravery of those who do it. (Including I suppose, my forebears to New Zealand and Australia. Some of whom were from Ireland.)