NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Rebecca
The movie opens sometime in the 1950's somewhere in Ireland. Ellis (pronounced Ailish) seems unhappy as she prays in church with her mother and sister. She then goes to work at a store, run by the mean old Mrs. Kelly, who is very judgmental and critical.
Ellis, who had tried to talk to Mrs. Kelly before her shift started but was rebuked, tells her that she is going to America. Her sister contacted a priest in America to sponsor her. She says she can work until she leaves, but is not permitted to do so. Mrs. Kelly guilts her for leaving her sister behind to take care of their mother for the rest of her life.
Ellis is at home at dinner with her mother and her sister, Rose, who does not think so highly of Mrs. Kelly either. They talk about the weather and about Ellis buying clothes.
Ellis meets up with her friend Nancy. They discuss boys, particularly one boy, George, who seems to like Nancy. Ellis admits that she didn't put in more effort because she's going away soon.
While the two girls are at a social, they awkwardly stand off to the side while couples dance. George comes over to Nancy and asks her to dance. Ellis watches then and then leaves.
As Ellis is packing, Rose is surprised that she owns so little and wishes she looked after her better. This is part of the reason why Rose is sending her, because she can't buy Ellis a future.
Ellis sets sail while her mother and sister watch, though their mother leaves early. Ellis and Rose cry while they blow each other a kiss. The ship appears to be full of mostly young people, being sent off by the older ones.
Ellis finds her room, with a bathroom being shared by two girls next door. Her roommate soon comes in to kick her off of the bottom bunk. She declares it's Hell and that she should not have come home from America. She invites Ellis for a smoke, who refuses. She tells Ellis she'll be back soon, unless she finds a man from first class to smoke with.
Ellis is the only one eating in the dining hall. She gets sick in the middle of the night and desperately has to use the bathroom, but the other girls had locked it from their side. She gets up to use a mop bucket to use the bathroom in and when she comes back to the room she throws up in a bucket there as well.
When Ellis wakes up, her roommate is taking care of her. She forces her way into their bathroom and then blocks the others using it with her suitcase. She then goes to get her water.
Ellis and her roommate talk outside the ship about her going to America. She is feeling better, as it's been hours since she's eaten. Her roommate tells her about America, what it's like, about letters, and how she'll meet people easily where she'll be living, in Brooklyn.
When Ellis is eating again, her roommate is shocked by how pale and sick she still looks. She tries to dress her up so she won't be quarantined once she arrives.
At immigration, Ellis looks quite different and lovely. Her roommate's voiceover tells her how to get through, which involves thinking like an American. As Ellis steps out of a blue door, she is bathed in light.
Ellis finds her new place, which is a boarding house where other young women live, which is run by the delightful gossip, Mrs. Kehoe.
Ellis walks to Bartocci's, the department store where she works. As she is putting her stuff away in her cubby, she is approached by another girl who tries to strike up a conversation.
It's not just other girls Ellis is awkward with, but customers as well. She is told by her supervisor that she has to treat every customer like a new friend.
Ellis keeps to herself and seems awkward. It is clear she misses home.
On the day Ellis had forgotten to check for mail, it turns out she had gotten letters from home. As soon as dinner is done she rushes up to read her letter, from Rose. She cries as she reads the letter.
At work, Ellis is still being watched by her supervisor. She asks her if she's crying because it's her time of the month, which it's not. She tells Ellis to take a few minutes off and sends her to the staff room.
While there Ellis is approached by the priest who had sponsored her, Father Flood. He had been told she was doing so well that he didn't think she would need looking after. He lets her know that she has enrolled her in a bookkeeping night class at Brooklyn College. He says that they need Irish girls in Brooklyn, and she wishes she were back in Ireland. He assures her that she will feel wretched at first, but that it will then move on.
The class does not seem to be an easy one, where they are learning about a Supreme Court case. Ellis is interested and doing well, though, and earnestly takes notes. During the break a male classmate shares with her how hard he finds it.
During dinner at the boarding house, they discuss their Christmas plans. The other girls make fun of Ellis, since she is going to be serving men at the church who have no other place to go.
The priest explains to Ellis when she asks that these men don't go home because there is nothing there and they've lost touch.
As a thank you, a man stands up to sing beautifully in Gaelic, which evokes emotion in Ellis as well as the other men. The music continues overhead during the film as the meal continues and is then cleaned up.
Ellis walks home where she is greeted by Mrs. Kehoe. As the two have a drink, Mrs. Kehoe explains that with one girl leaving, Ellis will be offered the best room in the house, the basement, since she is pretty and sensible.
The other girls indeed look differently at Ellis during the next dinner.
Two of the girls will be going to the movies instead of to a dance. Mrs. Kehoe remarks that hopefully they will have better luck with their new boyfriends than the ones before. Ellis says she will take the new girl, Dolores, to the dance.
Sure enough, the two girls just sit at an empty dance. Dolores talks about wanting to meet a guy. The girls who had said they would go to the movies end up coming to the dance. They bring Ellis to the bathroom to put some lipstick on her and remarks that she looked like she had been milking cows.
Ellis is dancing with a boy who is teaching her, though he quickly moves on to another girl. She is then approached by a boy, Tony, who had been watching her and they dance, including to a slow song.
Tony asks Ellis where she lives and asks to walk her home. She says yes and then explains why, so he won't get the wrong idea. She points to Dolores and says that he'd be rescuing her from Dolores.
While they're walking, he admits that she's not Irish, which she already knew. He explains that he's fully Italian. He came to the dance because he really likes Irish girls. Ellis makes him nervous as she teases him about if he danced with anyone else.
Once Ellis arrives home, he asks to take her out next week. She accepts and says goodnight. He watches her go in and leaves.
While Tony and Ellis are out to eat, Ellis tells him about school and how she wants to be a bookkeeper and eventually an account. She wants to know about his plumbing work, but he would rather hear about bookkeeping, which she goes quite in depth about. She also tells him about Rose. She's been talking so much though that she hasn't eaten much.
At the boarding house, the girls are all knowingly smiling at Ellis. Mrs. Kehoe criticizes them and says Ellis is right not to say anything to those gossips. When they make fun of Tony's shoes, Mrs. Kehoe says she's going to ask the priest to talk about giddiness, the 8th deadly sin.
Tony is waiting outside of class for Ellis to take her home. While they're riding on the trolley together, he dances around the question before asking her if she wants to meet his family. He tells her Italian food is the best in the world, which she's never tried. They also make plans to go to the movies.
At work, Ellis is now in a much better mood and easily talks to customers. Her supervisor notices and says she's a different woman. Ellis offers it's because of Tony. Her supervisor says that since he doesn't talk about baseball or his mother too much she should keep him.
At the boarding house, the two other girls teach her how to eat spaghetti, which Ellis is trying to do with a fork and a spoon.
Ellis writes to Rose about Tony, but asks that she not mention him to their mother. She tells Rose that he helps her feel like she has a life there that she didn't have before.
Tony warns Ellis about his younger brother Frankie, who seems to be looking forward to causing trouble, though the family had tried to talk him out of it. At dinner, Ellis is much more of an expert at eating spaghetti, and even tells Tony's mother that she took classes. Frankie then bursts out that they don't like Irish people since one of his brothers got beaten up by an Irish gang. He is then taken aside by their father.
While Ellis shares how she is going to college for bookkeeping and working at the store, Frankie comes back to admit that he was a rude idiot, and they all applaud.
One of Tony's brothers asks Ellis if Tony has talked to her about baseball, and they say that's how she'll see him in the summer if she goes with him. Tony is a Dodgers fan and jokes how it will be bad if their kids are Yankees or Giants fans. Frankie points out that Ellis isn't laughing and so must be a Yankees fan.
Tony walks Ellis back home. Once they arrive, they hug goodnight. Tony says that he loves her. She thanks him for a lovely evening but is unable to say it back.
While Ellis is looking at herself in the bathroom, another girl accidentally comes in. Ellis asks her why she isn't married, which turns out to be because her husband met somebody else and left her. When Ellis asks if she'd get married again, she says she, of course, would. Ellis isn't sure if somebody has asked her.
The next time Ellis comes out of class, Tony isn't there. She is about to head home on her own when he shows up late. He seems awkward about last time and even though Ellis wants to talk about it, he changes the subject and talks about the job he had right before he came to that dance. She insists she talk though and lets him know that she loves him back. He was worried they were going to have a totally different kind of talk. Ellis asks him not to talk about their kids being Dodgers fans.
Rose writes to Ellis, thanking her for her nylons and talking about her golf tournament. She can't wait to see her one day. Over dinner with their mother she is crying.
Ellis brings her grades to Father Flood and says she has saved up enough money to pay for them on her own now, and to pay him back. He remarks how much she's changed.
Mrs. Kehoe points out how Ellis is the first girl to have passed exams while living at her house. Ellis shares that Tony is taking her to Coney Island to celebrate. The girls tell her that she'll need to think carefully about her costume. Even Mrs. Kehoe agrees, since it'll be the most he'll have seen of her, and she won't want to turn him off.
Ellis' supervisor helps her with bathing suits and comments on her needing to shave down there. She does compliment her full behind though and helps her into a nice green suit.
Tony and Ellis seem to be enjoying Coney Island together. At the beach, though, Tony has to hold up a towel so that Ellis can change into her bathing suit. They certainly enjoy swimming and kissing in the water.
Ellis writes to Rose to let her know she's really happy in America for the first time, and that it's because of Tony. He took her to a Dodgers game, and she's looking for office jobs. She'll even soon be able to afford coming home for a visit.
Their mother knocks on Rose's door though to find her dead.
Ellis is approached by Father Flood while at work. He explains that she likely knew she was sick but didn't tell anyone. Ellis is upset that they're burying Rose without her being there, and she believes she'll never see her sister again. Father Flood says he thinks she will and that her sister will be watching over her.
When the phone rings, Ellis hesitates but picks it up. It is her mother who tells Ellis about the funeral. She makes Ellis cry though with how she has no one. Father Flood comforts her.
Ellis cries in Tony's arms while they're out to eat. He understand that she wants to go home but is afraid that he won't see her again. He says he wants to take her somewhere.
Tony takes her out to Long Island, to an open space where he hopes to build houses for his family and be in a building company with his brothers. He asks Ellis to at least think about it, but she says she doesn't need to.
Ellis can't sleep. Her mother back in Ireland is praying the rosary at church dressed in all black. Ellis gets up to go to Tony. She explains she needs to go home for just a month or two. He asks her to marry him before she goes. She's hesitant, but he says if they don't he'll go crazy.
Ellis brings Tony to her room where she warns him if he makes any noise she'll get evicted. They make love, and when done they hear footsteps, though they fortunately stop. Ellis has Tony stay the night.
The two are all dressed up to get married at City Hall. Tony plays ball with a little boy there and strikes up a conversation with his Irish father. He wants Ellis to meet them, but their name is called.
When Tony drops Ellis off at home, they wonder what their children will think about such a story.
Ellis is back home in Ireland. As she walks out of church with her mother, she sees Nancy, who is engaged to George. Her mother already knew but wanted Ellis to hear it from Nancy. Ellis is invited to the wedding, which is set to take place after Ellis plans to leave, but her mother says she can stay.
Ellis brings flowers to Rose's grave. She talks to Rose about Tony and cries about how she wishes everything were different.
They go through the letters of condolences with Ellis wondering if she'll keep going back and forth sending thank you notes. Nancy is there, and her mother sends her off.
Nancy isn't there with their other friend Annette though, like Ellis had been expecting. Rather she and George have brought another young man along, Jimmy.
Once they arrive at the rugby club, Ellis asks why Jimmy is there, who had broken off an engagement with another girl because he didn't think she was serious enough. She reminds Nancy that she's going back to the United States, but Nancy assures her she can have fun before they go back.
While walking with Jimmy, he tells Ellis that he went to Rose's funeral and that her death was the saddest thing that happened in town. His mother knew her since they were in the golf club together.
While talking to Nancy, George, and Jimmy, Ellie distinguishes how she lives in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan, which isn't very glamorous. Since she wants to be a bookkeeper like her sister, Jimmy says she should do some work before she goes back. George accuses him of wanting Ellis to stay, but Jimmy says he's just thinking of Ellis.
Her mother is still up and asks about her evening and asks about Jimmy. He'll have his house to his own soon, and her mother says he's a catch. Ellis just says goodnight.
Ellis returns home from shopping. She is told that she needs to go straightaway to her sister's old place of work to fix an accounting issue. It's a terrible mess for Ellis to work out. She makes it clear she'll make a system for the person after her and will not be staying.
The boss comes into compliment Ellis. He asks about her certificate and wants her to continue part-time and that they will speak again, even though she's going back
The grave is now filled, and Ellis continues to bring flowers.
Ellis goes to the beach with Nancy, George, and Jimmy. Since it's so different from Brooklyn, Jimmy wants to know if they must seem backward to Ellis, but she tells him they seem calm, civilized, and charming.
Jimmy tells Ellis there will be a prize in Rose's name at the golf club. They want Ellis to present the first prize and Jimmy's mother also wants to meet her.
Ellis mentions she wishes it were like this before Rose died.
While the other three have to change into their bathing suits under their towels, Ellis already has her bathing suit on. They remark it must be an American trick.
Tony wants help from Frankie writing out his letter to Ellis, since he's written so many, and she's only written back once. While Tony's letter is read aloud, Ellis seems to be getting along just fine in Ireland, including with Jimmy.
Ellis comes home to find a letter from Tony. She doesn't even read it but rather puts it in her drawer with the rest of the unopened letters.
Jimmy and Ellis are having lunch. She remarks that he looks different and jokingly ask if he's come to trick her. He admits that his life must seem very easy to her and others, but it doesn't feel like that. He tells her how he wants to go places and how he doesn't want to die having never left Ireland.
Ellis meets Jimmy's parents. Ellis makes an awkward comment about how Jimmy will not be alone forever. She tries to fix herself, but his mother just changes the subject.
Ellis reads all of the letters and begins to write one to Tony but cannot think of what to say.
Ellis and her mother go to Nancy's wedding with Jimmy. He offers to save them seats and Ellis and the mother remark what a gentleman he is and her mother mentions he came along at the right time.
Jimmy looks happy until he sees Ellis is emotional.
Ellis is told by an older woman that things are working out well for her. She tries to put off talk of Jimmy. But the woman presses on and hints that they'll soon be married.
While Jimmy and Ellis dance at the wedding, Ellis seems conflicted. Jimmy wants to talk to her about their future. He wants her to stay with him in Ireland, though he puts off proposing for another time since he doesn't want to bombard her. Ellis thanks him, is grateful and flattered, she just envisioned a different life. He understands but says her life could be just as good or better. They embrace.
Ellis is fetched by one of her former co-workers to go back to her old boss, Mrs. Kelly, to talk. She wants to know how she's been getting on with her job and Jimmy, but Ellis says it's just talk. She shares how a customer, Mrs. Brady, has a relative living in Brooklyn and so she knows Ellis was getting married.
Ellis says she has forgotten what this town is like and asks what Mrs. Kelly was asking her to do and assures her that her name is her married name.
Ellis composes herself outside and walks over to make the next reservation for New York.
Ellis' mother is just chattering away until she notices Ellis and thinks something happened with Jimmy. Ellis breaks down and apologizes for not telling her about Tony, but she wants to be with him. Her mother doesn't seem to mind and just wants her husband to be nice and wonders when she is going back, which is tomorrow. She then goes to bed and only wants to say goodbye now and only once. Her mother hopes she'll write about him and says goodnight.
Ellis looks around her room as she packs up her things. She looks out the window as she leaves but seems sure of herself.
Jimmy reads a note sent under his door.
Ellis is on the boat with a similar situation as the beginning with a young girl asking her about America. This young girl is going to live in Brooklyn as well. Ellis gives her similar advice.
Ellis is there waiting for Tony coming out of work. Her voiceover discusses finding someone who'll make her realize that's where her life is. They're basked in light as she hugs Tony.