Brooklyn is having a moment in the movies this weekend—and not the hip, new, urban gentrified borough. It’s the Brooklyn of the 1950s, when it was flush with immigrants from around the world, full of hope and excitement about life in America. That’s the era from which the new Fox Searchlight film Brooklyn draws its inspiration, in theaters Wednesday Nov. 4.
The story follows young Irish immigrant Ellis Lacey (played by the lovely Irish actress Saoirse Ronan), who leaves her home country to pursue life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. She lands in a boarding house in the famed New York borough, working as a shopgirl by day and taking accounting classes at night. One evening, she attends an Irish dance where she meets a soft-souled Italian-American plumber named Tony (played by Emory Cohen). They fall for each other. Hard.
At one point, she is forced to return to Ireland, where she encounters Jim Farrell (played by the adorable redheaded rising star Domhnall Gleeson), and love strikes her again. Her heart is torn not just between two loves, but also between two homes—her native Ireland and her adopted America.
When we caught up with Ronan at the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss the film, she said she thinks that even if you don’t have two strapping young lads vying for your attention, you can still relate to the movie. “Life situations can have so much duality,” she told us. “There are so many instances, whether it’s because of work or where you live, or in relationships themselves, when you’re being pulled in two different directions and trying to figure out which one is the slightly better option.”
Her two suitors are equally compelling, and you’ll find yourself feeling for Ellis’s predicament deciding between the two. “This story proves that there is no clean-cut happily ever after,” she said. Instead, her character’s happiness comes from being able to make her own decisions, especially after a life limited by choices that had been made for her (go to America, get a job).
Yet the choice of who to love is one that she gets to make all on her own. “This is really about knowing how to say no, knowing to take a step back, and knowing what’s right for you,” she said. “It is a tough lesson to learn especially if you’re [not] the type of person to upset anyone. But you do have to toughen up a little bit and do what’s right for yourself. The film taught me that lesson quite a bit.”
Watch a trailer for Brooklyn below.