Despite having arrived in cinemas just two months ago, the award-winning film adaptation of Colm Toibin’s novel, Brooklyn, is now set for further development – this time as a television series with the BBC. The news that the newly Oscar-nominated producers of Brooklyn – Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey – are heading up this fresh adaptation is an interesting development, given the nature of the book and the film.
The novel, Brooklyn, is set in the 1950s, and follows the story of Eilis Lacey – a young Irish woman who leaves her mother and sister, and their small village, to travel to Brooklyn and start a new life. Her older brothers have already left the town and are working away, and her gainfully employed sister remains in the family home to stay with their mother. For Eilis, a local priest has arranged a job and accommodation for her in New York City, and she embarks on a journey into a foreign land, as much as into adulthood and independence. When events begin to unfold on both sides of the Atlantic, however, Eilis is trapped between her past and her future.
The film adaptation is penned by Nick Hornby, directed by John Crowley, and necessarily creates a greatly pared down version of the narrative. A vast amount is ejected – including the existence of the brothers of Eilis – in favour of a more focused dramatic arc.
The synopsis of the film is as follows:
“Brooklyn tells the profoundly moving story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.”
Perhaps it is the case that the cut material from the novel has influenced the decision to further develop the title into an episodic format, since a great deal more of the story can be explored – although writers have yet to be hired. The announcement of the Brooklyn television adaptation indicates that the focus will be on the Brooklyn boarding house of Ma Keogh – played in the film by the incomparable, award-winning Julie Walters. This character was indeed the brightest spot within the film, and would easily anchor a show in which young Irish, British and American women rotate through the accommodation – including Eilis Lacey. Given the female-centric nature of the plot, it would be heartening to see some women writers and directors hired for the project.
In terms of casting, Saoirse Ronan is not expected to reprise her Oscar-nominated role as Eilis, but Julie Walters is confirmed as returning as the formidable and hilarious landlady. The prospect of UK national treasure Walters appearing in a BBC production is always something to be excited about – and in this case, she has already demonstrated excellence in this particular role, making this Brooklyn TV series one to watch for.