Saoirse Ronan makes a grand case for herself as the millennial generation's finest leading lady in Brooklyn, an immaculately crafted, immensely moving character study about a 1950s immigrant struggling to find her place in the world.
With an open, innocent countenance equally capable of registering tremulous separation anxiety, exhilarating joy, and moral uncertainty, Ronan is a marvel of nuanced expressiveness throughout this story, adapted by writer Nick Hornby from Colm Tóibín's novel. Carving out compelling characterizations from the slightest of looks and exchanges, Hornby and director John Crowley detail the plight of Eiles Lacey (Ronan), a twentysomething Irish girl who travels to New York, leaving her beloved older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) to care for their mother (Jane Brennan). In the States, a kindly priest (Jim Broadbent) helps Eiles secure lodging at a boardinghouse run by the strict but compassionate Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters) and work at a department store. It's a foreign life full of lingering homesickness, acclimation-induced distress, and wide-eyed excitement, the last of which blossoms after Eiles attends a local dance and meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), a sweet Italian plumber with whom she soon falls headlong into an affair.
Their amour is complicated by a family tragedy that calls Eiles back to Ireland, where her mother and her best friend unsubtly conspire to pair her with a single suitor (Domhnall Gleeson) in order to re-entrench her in her native land. The question of what -- and how one -- defines home becomes an urgent dilemma for Eiles, as she's pulled in two directions by competing feelings and forces.