Brooklyn (film)

Brooklyn is a 2015 romantic historical period drama film directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby, based on the novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín. It is a co-production between the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Canada. The film stars Saoirse Ronan in the lead role, with Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters in supporting roles. Set in 1951, the plot follows Eilis Lacey, a young Irish woman who emigrates to Brooklyn to find employment. There she marries an Italian plumber called Tony, before being forced to choose between her home town of Enniscorthy or her new life in Brooklyn. Filming began in Ireland in April 2014 that lasted three weeks, until production was moved to Montreal, Quebec for a further four weeks. Additional filming took place on Coney Island.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Crowley
Produced by
Screenplay byNick Hornby
Based onBrooklyn
by Colm Tóibín
Music byMichael Brook
CinematographyYves Bélanger
Edited byJake Roberts
Distributed by
Release date
  • 26 January 2015 (2015-01-26) (Sundance)
  • 6 November 2015 (2015-11-06) (United Kingdom and Ireland)
  • 20 November 2015 (2015-11-20) (Canada)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Canada
Budget$11 million[2]
Box office$62.1 million[3]

Brooklyn premiered on 26 January 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival.[4] It opened in limited release on 4 November 2015 in the US and the UK on 6 November 2015.[5] It was later screened on 13 September 2015 at the Toronto International Film Festival during the Special Presentations section. It was theatrically released in the United Kingdom and Ireland by Lionsgate on November 6, 2015. In was given a limited release by Mongrel Media in Toronto and Vancouver on 20 November 2015 before opening nationwide in Canada on 11 December. The film received critical acclaim, with many praising the screenplay, direction. Ronan's performance was highlighted by many critics, earning her several nominations for Best Actress, including a BAFTA, Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film.

Brooklyn was also named one of the best films of 2015, featuring on more than 120 "Top 10" film critics' lists. The film was ranked 48th on BBC's 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.[6]


In 1951, Eilis Lacey is a young woman from Enniscorthy, County Wexford, a small town in southeast Ireland, where she lives with her mother and sister, Rose. She is unable to find full-time employment, and works weekends at a shop run by the spiteful Miss Kelly, nicknamed "Nettles Kelly". Eilis is uninterested in the local young men. Her sister writes to an Irish priest (Father Flood) in Brooklyn who arranges for her to travel to New York City. Eilis suffers seasickness on the voyage and is locked out of the shared toilet by her cabin neighbours. The woman in the bunk below her, an experienced traveller, gives her advice and support.

In New York, Eilis lives at a Brooklyn boarding house with other young Irish women. She has a job at a department store but her shyness and sad demeanor with customers garners some criticism from Miss Fortini, her supervisor. Eilis has difficulty adjusting to her new life and her sister's letter makes her even more homesick. Father Flood gets her enrolled in bookkeeping classes as Eilis wants to become an accountant. At an Irish dance, she meets Italian-American Tony Fiorello, an amiable plumber. They begin dating, and she gradually adapts to living in New York as their romance becomes more serious and she meets his family. Her personality at work improves.

When her sister unexpectedly dies, Eilis tells Tony she must return home to help her mother. Tony shows her a plot of land on Long Island his family intends to develop and will include a house for them. He asks Eilis to marry him before she leaves. Eilis is hesitant but agrees, and they secretly marry at the courthouse. While there, they happen to bump into an Irish couple.

Once back in Ireland, Eilis falls into a new life, temporarily taking her late sister's bookkeeping job, and being set up with a well-off bachelor. It is a completely different life than the one she left behind for Brooklyn. She extends her stay to attend a friend's wedding, and avoids reading Tony's letters. Her suitor comes close to proposing marriage, but she is noncommittal.

Miss Kelly, Eilis former employer, tells her that she knows through gossip that Eilis is married. Agitated, Eilis realizes what it was really like living in this small town. She tearfully informs her mother about her marriage and that she is returning to Brooklyn. On the ocean crossing, she offers guidance to a young woman making her own first trip to Brooklyn. The film ends with Eilis and Tony reuniting and happily embracing.



Principal photography filming began on 1 April 2014 in Ireland, and was shot for three weeks at different locations including Enniscorthy, Wexford, and Dublin.[8][9][10] On the first day of shooting, Ronan was spotted in period costume on the set in Enniscorthy.[11][12] After finishing production in Ireland, it then moved to Montreal, Quebec for four weeks further.[9] Two days were spent shooting in New York at Coney Island.[13]

Historical context

Brooklyn is set during a time when Irish migration to New York was thriving. The initial boom of Irish immigration to the US can be traced back to the 1840s. Irish immigrants were more inclined to move to Brooklyn during the period following the Irish Potato Famine (1845–49) due to the fact that the Great Famine depleted the working class’ chief source of nutrition causing a crash in the economy.[14] After the Great Depression and World War II the rate of Irish immigration to New York had vastly lowered, but newly arriving citizens would still be able to find bustling Irish communities in which women were arguably a more significant presence than men.[15] These women immigrants were often very active in the workplace, placing marriage ambitions on hold to find practical occupations in places such as supermarkets, eateries and stores. Eilis makes her journey from Ireland to America in the 1950s, along with approximately 50,000 other immigrants (around a quarter of which moved to New York) as a part of the second minor wave of migration. Many of these citizens were in search of steadier jobs and a happier lifestyle. There were also smaller surges of immigrants from many other countries at this time, leading to modern day America becoming a vast land of many different cultures.[16]


Brooklyn is adapted from Irish writer Colm Tóibín's novel of the same name. It has been much celebrated in the literary world, with The Observer naming it as one of "The 10 best historical novels" in 2012.[17] In addition to this, it won the 2009 Costa Novel Award, was shortlisted for the 2011 International Dublin Literary Award and longlisted for the 2009 Booker Prize. The film is generally perceived as a faithful adaptation of the novel, with Tóibín noting the overall "authenticity" of the film in an interview with The Washington Post.[18] However, the film notably diverges from the book in regards to its ending. In the novel, Eilis leaves Ireland, but her destination and ultimately her fate is left for the reader to decide. Nonetheless, the film goes full circle, giving Eilis the poignant reunion with Tony in Brooklyn that the reader deserves. The novel and the film have equally been praised for their refreshing perspective on the plight of the Irish immigrant. They both depict a realistic story.


Brooklyn premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on 26 January 2015. After it premiered, a bidding war began between The Weinstein Company, Focus Features and Fox Searchlight Pictures. Fox Searchlight Pictures prevailed, acquiring the distribution rights for US and other multiple territories for $9 million. The deal was one of the biggest to ever come out of Sundance.[4] It was selected to be shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.[19] The film opened in a limited release in the United States on 4 November 2015, before opening in a wide release on 25 November 2015.[20]


Critical response

Brooklyn received a standing ovation following its premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.[21] On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 256 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Brooklyn buttresses outstanding performances from Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen with a rich period drama that tugs at the heartstrings as deftly as it satisfies the mind."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[23] Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film an overall positive score of 92% and over 80% said they would "definitely recommend" it.[24]

The BFI[25] labelled as one of the best films released in 2015. This article expands on the film's ambiance and describes its dynamic feeling by saying "in some ways Brooklyn feels like a movie that’s not just about, but also from, a more innocent age.".[25] But, offers a different view by looking at the darker tones presented in the film, explaining "But this sidelining of harsher elements is perhaps only to be expected in a film that takes a conventional romantic set-up and, abetted by Michael Brook’s hauntingly melodic score, elevates it to a more intelligent dramatic level". Furthermore, exploring some of the social conversations that begun upon the film's release; immigration and feminism's status in modern society compared to the society in the time Brooklyn was set in. "Immigrant dramas traditionally tend to be male-led; but Brooklyn, despite Cohen’s break-out performance and the excellence of Gleeson, is female-led and all the stronger for it."[25]

Empire review.[26] This article expands on the film's genre and ambiance, saying it's "unashamedly romantic and achieved with a beautifully subtle, old-fashioned elegance, it’s a graceful coming-of-age tale ripe for awards".[26]

An interview conducted by Entertainment Tonight[27] expanded on the theme of feminism in an interview with leading actress Saoirse Ronan.[28]

Question: "Eilis runs up against being an independent woman in a time that it wasn’t so fashionable. Feminism was a different thing that it is now. What's your take on it all?"

Answer: "To see a character like her, set in that time and not have it be solely about men that are in her life, that's quite feminist in itself. Actually, all the women in this film are very independent and strong. I think feminism couldn't flourish then as much as it does now. In a way, it’s become sort of unpopular now for us to be treated as equal citizens. Some people treat feminism as taboo - and if they shave their armpits then they’re not feminist. To me, feminist is just that we’re equal to men."

Box office

Brooklyn grossed $38.3 million in North America and $23.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $62.1 million, against a budget of $11 million.[29][30]

The film's gross in Canada exceeded C$4 million, giving it the highest cumulative domestic gross of any Canadian film released in 2015.[31][32] The film had the biggest opening of any Irish film in Ireland since 1996 earning over $650,000 from 87 cinemas, making it the strongest drama debut since Michael Collins opened to $662,000 in November 1996.[33] The Hollywood Reporter calculated the film made a net profit of $3–4 million.[34]


Brooklyn received many nominations for industry and critics awards, including three nominations for the 88th Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress. Ronan's performance in particular was praised and garnered her Oscar, BAFTA,[35] Critics' Choice,[36] Golden Globe,[37] and SAG nominations for best actress.[38] She also won the BIFA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film.[39] Julie Walters was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the BAFTAs.[35] The film won the Audience Favorite Gold Award in World Cinema at the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Rogers People's Choice Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Virginia Film Festival. Cohen was named Breakthrough Performer at the Hamptons International Film Festival.[40] It won two Canadian Screen Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Musical Score and two 18th Quebec Cinema Awards (formerly known as the Prix Jutra), for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.

Brooklyn was also named one of the best films of 2015, featuring on more than 120 "Top 10" film critics' lists.[41][6] It is ranked fourth on Rotten Tomatoes and fifth on Metacritic's best reviewed films of 2015.[42][43][44]


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  19. "Toronto to open with 'Demolition'; world premieres for 'Trumbo', 'The Program'". ScreenDaily. 28 July 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
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