Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Ireland/United Kingdom/Canada, 2015. Wildgaze Films, BBC Films, Parallel Film Productions, BAI, BFI Film Fund, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Bun and Ham Productions, Crédit d’Impôt Cinéma et Télévision, Finola Dwyer Productions, The Government of Ireland, HanWay Films, Ingenious Productions, Irish Film Board, Item 7, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Quebec Film and Television Tax Credit, Radio Telefís Éireann, SODEC, TSG Entertainment, Téléfilm Canada. Screenplay by Nick Hornby, based on the novel by Colm Toibin. Cinematography by Yves Belanger. Produced by Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey. Music by Michael Brook. Production Design by Francois Seguin. Costume Design by Odile Dicks-Mireaux. Film Editing by Jake Roberts.
Colm Toibin’s novel is adapted by Nick Hornby with pleasing results, starring Saoirse Ronan as a determined young woman who emigrates from Ireland to America in 1952 and does not allow herself to get swallowed up by the gigantic world she encounters.
Encouraged to go by her loving older sister and sponsored by a kindly priest (Jim Broadbent), Ronan comes to Brooklyn and is set up with a room in a boarding house (run by a gregarious but not unkind Julie Walters) and a job at a department store (managed by Jessica Pare), at first desperately homesick but eventually finding her feet in the new world.
She enrolls in night classes to pursue a career in bookkeeping, then meets a charming plumber at a dance (Emory Cohen) who becomes a friend and, eventually, a deep love. Thanks to her good sense, Ronan does not allow this to take her off the path of ambition but, when personal tragedy draws her back to Ireland for a visit, a new romance in her home village challenges her to decide between the comfortable past or an uncertain future.
Beautiful cinematography and richly detailed costumes add great pleasure to what is a showcase for Ronan, who is always sympathetic without ever overplaying the emotional depths she finds herself in. She’s solid enough to make Cohen, whose appearance in films always seems like part of a sponsored program to keep him off the streets, sympathetic and appealing, and she is far more compelling than Hornby’s lackluster script and John Crowley’s soft direction.
Conflicts are glided over quickly as if to make sure the audience doesn’t lose their patience with the struggles that are being depicted here, and the third act focusing on romance weakly follows the far more fascinating sequences of watching her adjust to the challenges of immigration. That said, the film is surprisingly sincere and never boring, and is an effective rendering of a time gone by.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan); Best Adapted Screenplay
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Actress-Drama (Saoirse Ronan)
Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination: Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan)
Toronto International Film Festival: 2015