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Saoirse’s poignant role set to shine at oscars

MoviesBy Esther McCarthy
Saoirse’s poignant role set to shine at oscars

WHERE is home?

That’s the thinking behind this sweet Irish drama about a young woman trying to find her place in life. 

Saoirse Ronan is already generating serious awards-season heat for her role here. And her restrained, mature performance helps keep this period film on the right side of melodrama.  

But Brooklyn has other great victories to recommend it. Julie Walters in support provides wonderful light relief. 

And it is Nick Hornby’s wonderful screenplay that anchors the film, and really brings home the dilemmas facing the central characters. 

Ronan plays Eilis Lacey, a bright spark in small-town Enniscorthy who – like many of her generation – faces few prospects at home. 

Egged on by her sister, and to the dismay of her mother, Eilis decides to take the emigrant boat to New York. 

Naive but resolute, she makes the harrowing journey by sea across the Atlantic to meet Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) a kindly priest with a job and an offer of lodgings.  

All has changed utterly, but some things are uncannily the same. The boarding house in which she is to stay, run by the steely and witty Mrs Kehoe (Walters, brilliant) is full of Irish girls, many of whom know her background and family. 

Eilis may be in strange and unfamiliar territory, but the gossip and backbiting of small town Ireland is never far away.

Things look up when she finds romance with a handsome young Italian/American, who clearly adores her. But when a family tragedy forces Eilis to make the lengthy journey home, she finds changed circumstances and friendship (and maybe more) in the form of a kind and well-connected young man (Gleeson). 

It’s a heart wrenching decision for the young woman – does she remain with the people she knows best in the place where she grew up, or return to this strange new world and the man who is waiting for her? 

It’s a familiar story that veers close to mawkishness at times  – though it’s undeniably moving  – but Brooklyn’s great victory is in the sheer strength of its storytelling. Aided by Hornby’s charming script, Eilis is a woman in serious turmoil and anyone who has ever waved goodbye to a loved one at an airport will truly feel touched. 

But Emory Cohen, as her potential future, does a great job of muddying her dilemma, while some small supporting roles serve to add a real drama to the finale. 

A poignant, lovely film, and one that Oscar voters will lap up. 

Brooklyn (12A) 4/5 STARS