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I don't give five stars easily. This was an absolutely beautiful little film. Saoirse Ronan is very good in the lead, as are the supporting cast. It's a story that many viewers may know well - about a young person who, with utter confidence, makes a decision to immigrate to another country and culture, only to find that home haunts you for months, and the homesickness you experience is nothing like you expected. It is nearly unbearable. And then the biggest surprise . . . that you are missing a ghost, because home doesn't ever stay the way we left it; it changes and disappears and something else takes its place. Things are never the way you remember. If you have ever experienced this, you may do what I did and cry like a child throughout the film. If you haven't, you may see immigration differently. At any rate it will make you think about the meaning of "home" - is it the past? The familiar? Is it a person you can't live without? Is "home" ultimately what you make it? Don't miss this one.
Alright, full disclosure: I am a man, so a movie that includes many scenes of quiet women writing thoughtful letters to each other about their feelings may not have been intended for me. Still, I'm an open-minded viewer and the movie touched on topics that are meaningful to me: as an immigrant: which country are you a part of, in the end? What happens when loved ones die overseas and you can't be there? In the end, this is the kind of movie where I spent a lot of time looking at my watch, in part because the pace is deliberate; in part because Saoirse Ronan's acting style is very understated; and mostly because the director never really made me care about the main character, who is an an Irish immigrant to Brooklyn, NY in the 1950s. For most of the movie, she is not an agent of her destiny: her decision to immigrate is not really hers, her job is picked by someone else, and the two romantic interests pursue her while she's holding back. Even at the end of the movie, when the pace finally picks up and she has to make THE big decision between her two suitors (and which country she wants to live in), she only makes her decision because (I can't say too much here) someone else leaves her no choice. She came across to me as a tad cold, apathetic, and also cruel in the way she led both men on. Not the kind of character I want to spend a couple hours with! Otherwise, it's a beautifully shot period piece. I just wish it had a heart.
I rarely write movie reviews but this little gem was so well acted and directed that I felt compelled to do so. Eilis (pronounced Ay-lish) Lacey is a young woman with little prospects in her native Ireland so her older sister secures, with the help of a priest, a position for her as a shopgirl in America. Ellis is heartbroken to leave her family but necessity forces her to leave home for the hustle and bustle of New York. She is able to continue her studies at nights and on weekends goes to the dance hall to socialize.
The beauty of this movie is in its simple storyline. One might think that a new immigrant tolling along in America is just one of many, yet here it is taken with such care that you can compare it to a blooming flower---soft and fragile, giving up its secrets as it opens up. This isn't pushed. It happens on its own terms, leading you along until the very end. You realize that you are holding your breath all along, expecting heartbreak or indescribable joy. I can only credit this to the outstanding talent of director John Crowley and the heartrending performances of Saoirse Ronan, as Eilis, and newcomer Emory Cohen, as Tony. Cohen's work in this film is so good, in fact, that he has been lauded as a young Marlon Brando or Johnny Depp. This is the perfect romantic movie to watch with your special someone. It takes your breath away.
Dignity...that is the theme that kept me thinking throughout the film. The dignity of the main actress and she tries to struggle with her feelings for her family as she leaves for new shores in America. The dignity of the two men who are dating her - and they are searching for love - not just a good time with a girl. The dignity of work and of her efforts at accounting school. The dignity of her sister who let her younger sibling make the jump to a new land rather than herself. The dignity of the Irish workers - now unemployed - who gather together at Christmas and revisit their feelings for their old homeland. The dignity of the priest who helps the young woman.
Everything from the subtle characters to the music to the cinematagraphy works in unison. And Saoirise Ronan shines. A lovely woman inside and out. You can't fake that.
Living in Brooklyn, working at a retail store, Bartocci's (akin to Saks Fifth Avenue), does not displace the loneliness and heartache from being separated from her mother and sister, Rose, back in Ireland. Eilis is staying at a boarding house (dormitory) with prim and proper roommates. Acting as her tutor, she is taught etiquette and pizazz that put her on par with them. She takes to it easily. At Brooklyn College, she is studying to become an accountant, and she flourishes there. The Friday night dances are the highlight of the week as in a Jane Austen novel. She develops an intimate relationship with Tony Fiorello, her direct opposite. He's blue collar (a plumber), Italian, and not her intellectual equal. He looks up to her and respects her, and that is what's important to Eilis. After the sudden loss of her sister, Eilis returns home to Ireland to grieve with her mother. In this small, close-knit town, everyone knows everyone else, and they band together to do everything in their power to dissuade Eilis from leaving, a second time. She is introduced to and begins dating Jim Farell, "a catch for someone" her mother states. In addition, she is offered and accepts an accounting job at a local company. A stack of unopened, unanswered letters from Tony accumulate in her dresser drawer. The question becomes - will she stay in Ireland or return to Brooklyn? An immensely heartfelt drama for all the characters involved!
Excellent performances by the supporting cast cannot drag this film from anything but the mediocre. Not enough camera time is allowed them to establish personalities, and there is no spark between the lead characters to make their relationship believable. Unrealistic hairstyles and clothes distract attention continuously so that I found myself saying – that jacket doesn't fit him, no-one would wear high heels in that situation, why does she not have a hair out of place, can't he stand up straight … Cannot the people who make these films talk to those who remember or use family photos to establish the 'look' of a time not just rely on convention or fashion magazines. A poor and unmemorable film.
5.0 out of 5 starsA must see for any romance lover
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 19, 2016
I didn't love this film, I adored it for the reason that it is completely different to the other films out there at the moment. Its a beautiful storyline, and the best part is that there is no violence or special effects. Saoirse's character is beautifully portrayed and you can see her blossom. As for Tony, he reminds me of Andrew McCarthy (Pretty in Pink) at times. The innocence of Tony and Ellis's romance is a rare gem.
Stunning, gorgeous and just plain bloody brilliant.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 15, 2021
I just love Saoirse Ronan. I watched this film on tv and thought it was amazing. Lovely Irish girls leaving Ireland for a better life in America. It was heart warming, funny, sad in places. I loved it so much and bought my best friend the DVD, as I know she will love it <3
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 31, 2017
Beautiful, calm, simple story. I love the atmosphere of the movie, and read the book after seeing the movie in cinema. Other than a few minor simplifications and omissions, the movie is quite true to the book. If you're looking for action, this is obviously not your choice. If you enjoy a quiet but emotionally touching movie, you'll like this one.