5 Life Lessons Every Woman Can Learn from the Movie Brooklyn

The Oscar-nominated film isn’t just about love.
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1996
The Oscar-nominated film isn’t just about love.

The next time you need an excuse to stay in on a Friday night, grab some popcorn, a couple friends, and the Oscar-nominated film Brooklyn. In the time it takes you to find the remote and the most comfortable spot on the sofa, you’ll find yourself thrown into the life of an Eisenhower-era Irish immigrant. Alongside Eilis Lacey, you’ll battle homesickness, endure pesky housemates, fall in love with Tony (a charming Italian), and find comfort in a man who offers the familiarity of home.

Fair warning: Eilis’ love story is beautiful, and it will tempt you to view the movie as a simple romance. But Eilis has a lot more to teach about life than how to find a man. Here are five lessons every young woman can learn from Brooklyn. (And if it’s not obvious yet, be warned: Spoilers ahead!)

01. A well-timed mentor can make all the difference.

Just after Eilis boards the ship that will take her to America, a pair of pearl earrings and a smear of scarlet lipstick waltz into Eilis’ cabin, demanding the better bed and offering Eilis a cigarette in the same breath. Eilis cowers in the wake of Georgina, who navigates the ins and outs of immigrant life with practiced ease. Despite her intimidation, however, Eilis learns a thing or two from her vivacious roommate. As the ocean between Eilis and Ellis Island dwindles, Georgina coaches her mentee: “Stand up straight, polish your shoes, and don’t cough, whatever you do. Don’t be rude or pushy, and don’t look too nervous. Think like an American. You have to know where you’re going.”

Georgina doesn’t appear again throughout the movie, but Eilis’ short-term mentor models the courage Eilis once lacked. At any moment in time, we could come face to face with someone who could shift our way of thinking. Eilis was open to the advice Georgina had to offer, and she took it in stride. Without the help of the fiery blonde who showed her how to walk, think, and dress like an American, Eilis may not have made it past immigrant inspection.

02. Self-confidence should be showcased.

After returning to Ireland following a family emergency, Eilis runs into her best friend, Nancy. Nancy squeals over the dramatic transformation her friend has taken on—“Oh, Eilis, you look so glamorous!” The Eilis standing before her, who wears a canary A-line dress, fuchsia lipstick, and a flick of black liquid liner, looks nothing like the Eilis who took off for Brooklyn months ago with her trunk of plain dresses and skirts. Of course, Nancy sees the extremes of her best friend’s change, but Eilis’ transformation was gradual. It began when Georgina brushed mascara onto her eyelashes before she made her way through immigration, and it continued when her housemates pulled her into a bathroom during an Irish dance to smudge some lipstick on her and offer some choice encouragement: “There! That’s better. Now you don’t look like you came in from milking the cows!” After she meets Tony, Eilis’ everyday appearance continues to showcase her growing confidence and developing sense of security. Whether it be motivated by love, a new passion, or just an internal desire for a shift, heightened confidence is something every woman should strive for.

03. Be selective of whom you share yourself with.

brooklyn movie, lessons learned

When Eilis moves in to a boarding house, her housemates pass rumors and hot gossip across the dining room table with the bread basket. Two of her housemates shine their spotlight on Eilis after they hear about her mysterious Tony, and they interrogate her for more information. In her ever-classy way, Eilis keeps her lips sealed in a smile, teasing her inquisitive friends with a smirk and sending their curiosity into a spiral. Though she revels in the privacy of her personal life, Eilis quickly learns to enjoy the attention Tony grants her. On their first date, he coaxes Eilis forth with a flash of his puppy-dog eyes and a few well-placed questions. An entire meal later, Eilis can’t stop talking, and she glows with the joy of sharing her story as she opens up to Tony about her hopes for an American future and her dreams of an Irish past. Eilis shows us that you can enjoy your beauty and allure as a woman without being ostentatious.

04. Suffering is part of life, but it’s the part that makes it rich.

Eilis enters the throes of homesickness as soon as she steps foot in Brooklyn. Receiving her first letters from home spirals into a heartbreaking bout of regret, but she carries on. At the end of the movie while Eilis returns from a visit to Ireland, she meets a young girl traveling to America for the first time. Eilis warns her, “You’ll feel so homesick that you’ll want to die, and there’s nothing you can do about it apart from endure it. But you will, and it won’t kill you.” Sometimes in life we meet challenges that demand strength until they end—nothing soothes and nothing speeds up the process. And that’s just how it is. But these challenges do end as you get stronger, and that strength is worth everything in the end.

05. Personal growth requires sacrifice.

Eilis journeys home for a while and leaves Tony behind in Brooklyn. She spends more than a month in Ireland, falling in step with the rhythm of what would have been her life if she had never left. A man she meets while she’s home asks her to stay: “Your life here could be just as good. Better, even.”

In the end, Eilis faces a tough choice: Stay in Ireland with the comforts of home, or return to Brooklyn, the place that made her into the independent woman she now is. “One day the sun will come out; you might not even notice straight away, it’ll be that faint,” Eilis says to an acquaintance toward the end of the film, explaining the life of an immigrant. “You’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past, someone who’s only yours, and you’ll realize that this is where your life is.”

If you’re a woman in need of fresh inspiration, this flick is for you. Dare yourself to channel Eilis Lacey, and find your Brooklyn.

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures