Book vs Movie: Brooklyn

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I’d heard of Colm Toibin’s novel Brooklyn prior to catching an advance screening of the film adaptation last month, but I hadn’t read the book until just recently. There are very few times that I can remember thinking that the movie version was just as good as the book, but John Crowley’s Brooklyn is such a pleasure to watch that I can’t imagine fans of the book will be disappointed when they see it.

The movie has big shoes to fill, though, since the novel by Colm Tóibín won the 2009 Costa Novel Award, was shortlisted for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and longlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize. If you’re one of those people who thinks there is no point to reading the book if the movie is good, I’d encourage you to rethink that when it comes to Brooklyn. The book is worth reading because Tóibín’s writing is just so beautiful.

Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay and I really have to hand it to him because he managed to tell the same story but in a much more approachable way, perfect for the mass audiences around the world who will undoubtedly see this movie. Much of the plot is the same, but there are a few key differences between the book and the film. For example, the movie cuts out Eilis’ brothers completely, which I think the book could have done as well. The fact that it’s just Eilis, her sister, and her mother in the film adds a certain level of emotion that I just didn’t feel in the book. I can’t really say more without giving too much away, so I’ll just leave it at that. But probably the main difference between the two is the overall tone of the movie is much lighter, even funny. I laughed out loud in the theatre, and I just didn’t get that same joy from the book.

Saoirse Ronan is nominated for a Golden Globe and SAG award for best performance by an actress in a motion picture, and if you’ve seen the movie you understand why. Saoirse (Eilis) is definitely the heart of the film, I can’t imagine it would have felt the same without her. Jim Broadbent as Father Flood and Julie Walters as Mrs. Kehoe were also particularly great casting choices. They brought a certain spark that I felt was missing from the book. Saoirse’s wardrobe in the film is gorgeous. One dress was purchased at a vintage shop in Montreal (where most of the movie was shot) and makes me want to drive right over there (a mere 5 hour  drive from Toronto) to buy something similar.

If you’re looking for a great read, pick up a copy of Brooklyn. If you’re looking for a great movie to watch over the holidays, go see Brooklyn. It’s so nice to be able to recommend both the book and the movie for a change.


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