“I’m not sure I have a home anymore.”

-Eilis Lacey


The romantic period drama Brooklyn (2015), directed by John Crowley, revolves entirely around immigrant Eilis Lacey and focuses on her journey from Ireland to Brooklyn. The movie reveals the challenges of intercontinental migration in the 1950s, including the unbearable feeling of homesickness and the dilemma of choosing between one’s two homes. Simultaneously, it also shows a glimpse of the formation of New York City’s diverse demographic structure, which causes NYC to be still known as the city of immigrants. Overall, the movie provides you with the opportunity of watching two hours of tasteful cinematography while gaining some insights on the innate hardships of immigration and the way being an immigrant can affect one’s emotional state.

It is important to have an understanding of the historical background of the Irish migrations to NYC. The initial immigration flow, which was the case immediately after the Great Famine of 1840s in Ireland, created an extensive network of Irish people in the city. In the time period, this movie was set in, there were significantly a greater number of Irish women than there were men in the city and they primarily moved to the US with the aspirations of finding a steady job. Our main character Eilis, a young woman who has the exact same motivations, finds the chance to move to Brooklyn. Driven by economic concerns and hoping that she can fully utilize her potential in the United States, she leaves her whole life behind. While doing so, she knows that it could take years before she can see her family again, if ever. Owing to her family’s relations with the existing Irish community in the city, she also finds a place to stay and an initial job for a head start. These show the significance of transnational migration networks in setting international migration trends.

First half of the movie demonstrates how hard it can be for a young girl like Eilis to move to a whole new country all by herself. We witness how she struggles to be successful in her job while dealing with homesickness since it is very hard for her to commit to her new life. The movie really manages to capture the difficulties of being an immigrant back in those days, albeit it can be argued that not much has changed over the last 70 years either. At this point, it becomes almost impossible for us to not feel bad for Eilis’ character, as the movie reflects her feelings perfectly without even making the character say them out loud.

However, fellow Irish people that constitute a huge portion of Brooklyn’s population finally start to make Eilis feel a bit more like at home as each day passes. This also shows the crucial role of organizations like Hometown Associations for the immigrants. Additionally, this is a nice example emphasizing the superiority of integration over assimilation, as the Irish people in the movie best fit in the society when they can save a piece of their traditions and national identity alive. Once the homesickness diminishes and her integration into the society stops being an issue of discussion, a family tragedy calls her back home.

When Eilis returns to Ireland, she rediscovers the comfortable feeling of familiarity. That’s when we once more start to feel like we are in her shoes. Since she now has a home and life in the United States as well, she finds herself in a situation in which she has to choose between two equally tempting and simultaneously painful options. The way the movie depicts Eilis’ decision process as she tries to choose between returning to Brooklyn and staying in Ireland, successfully portrays a dilemma immigrants often confront: being torn between the opportunities destination countries offer to them and the warm feeling only their home, to which they can trace their origins back, can provide. After all, many exciting possibilities and her future awaits her in Brooklyn as Ireland is where her family and history remain.

The great thing about this movie is that it manages to make the audience feel almost as anxious as the character feels about her decision. While you are watching the movie, you know that there is no right answer to some questions, as it is the case for many migration issues and debates. And despite knowing that no matter what Eilis chooses you cannot blame her, you still want her to choose the one your heart wishes. Anyone can also see that both the director and the writers act very subtly as they keep tackling questions like “Where should I stay?” and “Where do I call my home?”. Overall, although the movie does not tell a complicated story, it is still quite an emotional rollercoaster for the viewers.

It is particularly important and nice to have such movies produced in the last decade, considering the growing number of anti-immigration attitudes and policies in all the world, but especially in the United States. Everyone is aware that migration has a long history of causing controversy in the United States. But not many people can disagree with the fact that even today most immigrants continue to feel like they are not welcome in their new home, as they face constant threats by the policy changes of the government. What is worrying even further is that those immigrants barely find any chance to make their voices heard in a way that can actually trigger a change in the people’s attitudes. Luckily, movies like this undertake this responsibility, even when it is not the main concern of the producers. Although this claim might sound naive, movies like Brooklyn can help the people in the receiving societies to empathize with the immigrants in their country, at least to some extent. Bearing in mind that this movie does not particularly touch upon the external challenges that immigrants face, their state of mind is also very important to understand if we seek to empathize with them and evoke change since an important role falls upon the destination countries and societies in building immigrants’ trust and belonging. There is a saying which is very appropriate for movies like this: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” Although not every movie has to have a strong message, it is still important to appreciate movies which manage to subtly encourage empathy and even urge social change.

There is also a hopeful side to this movie. At the end, we see the transformation of Eilis from a scared young foreigner to a mature woman and a true American who is not afraid of pursuing her dreams and taking firm steps towards the “life she imagined for herself”. Her journey is very inspirational for any person, especially for women, who are brave enough to dream such a future.

Movies are perfect for unconsciously gaining some insight on the neglected issues of our day which we assume we have an idea about. Similarly, this movie successfully sheds light on one of those, as it successfully portrays the dilemmas immigrants face while they seek a sense of belonging in their new home. Overall, Brooklyn is worth giving a shot if nothing more, and it can get very valuable if you are willing to watch it with an open mind. With its small but memorable characters, amazing acting, astonishing scenery and subtle message, it is almost guaranteed that you will have a good time.


“One day you’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past, and you’ll realize, that this is where your life is.”

-Eilis Lacey



Migration Studies Internship Programme

Sosyal Medyada Paylaş


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