There is a moment in "Brooklyn" -- the recently released 1950s period semi-romance -- when one naive and worried young Irishwoman turns to a slightly less naive and worried young Irishwoman and asks her what America will be like. The response is heartfelt, immediate, true and not quite true, all at once: "Like Ireland, but no one knows your Auntie."
And that is Brooklyn -- and Ireland -- in a nutshell in the 1950s.
Brooklyn -- the borough -- in the '50s is very much an immigrant borough. Irish enough that a young Irish woman can feel at home. American enough that it is a place where an ambitious young Irishwoman would want to make her home in the 1950s.
Brooklyn -- the movie -- is a story about choices. And also a story about the lack of choices.
Eilis -- beautifully played by the lovely Saoirse Ronan -- is a clever young woman slowly suffocating in 1950s Ireland. Opportunities are few and far between, jobs are nearly impossible to come by, and the future seems bleak at best for the young and old alike.
Eilis' older sister, Rose, a lovely, clever young woman lucky enough to have a decent job, has already settled into her generational role as the wage-earning spinster daughter slated to look after their humorless widowed mother.
But, Rose -- successful, despite the cage of Irish expectations that has left her to live out her life like a ship on the rocks -- has decided with that stereotypical mix of Irish self-sacrifice and unwavering stubbornness that Eilis, at least, will have the chance of living a life of choice. Even if that isn't a choice Eilis wants.
And so it is that Eilis starts her journey with a barely full suitcase, a steerage-class ticket to America, a place in a -- solidly Irish -- women's boarding house and a job, both in Brooklyn. Eventually, there is a man, too. (Not Irish.) But this isn't a schmaltzy love story. Or at least, not simply a schmaltzy love story.
No spoilers. This is a story as much about finding a way to escape fear as it is about love. Yes, Eilis finds love. But far away from the disapproving aunties and the vindictively gossipy widows of 1950s Ireland she also finds a home. And a way to move on because Brooklyn is not the end of Ireland for Eilis, and neither is it simply the beginning of America.