Director: John Crowley (2015)
This beguiling tale about a young Irishwoman in New York is far and away the best film released this week.
Saoirse Ronan adds another fine performance to her CV as a thoughtful, amenable soul on a voyage of self-discovery. Her subtle strength is reflected in the quality of the filmmaking.
Based on Colm Toibin’s novel, it features a charming cast working from a smart script, a lovely eye for period detail and gorgeous photography.
Much creative budget-stretching gives it a polish and sweep much better financed films should envy.
Nick Hornby also wrote Reece Witherspoon’s Wild (2015) and has found a niche writing thoughtful, female character centred films.
I wouldn’t want to wish him out of a job, but it’s a poor commentary on the industry these films probably wouldn’t be made with a non-name female writer attached.
Eilis Lacey realises 1950’s Ireland has little to offer her and so suffers an undignified sea crossing in search of a future.
When Eilis steps from the gloomy immigration hall into the bright colour of the big apple, it’s a magical moment similar to Dorothy stepping into the wonderful world of Oz.
As Eilis struggles with homesickness, heartache and the harsh winter, a Christmas dinner for the homeless diaspora is a reminder of the unforgiving nature of the world.
Thankfully the fiddle playing is kept to a minimum.
Jim Broadbent’s kindly Father Flood finds her a job in a department store under the sternly glamorous gaze of Miss Fortini, played with panache by Jessica Pare.
Eilis must also carefully navigate the politics of her boarding house dining table, refereed by Julie Walters’ mother hen of a landlady, Mrs Kehoe.
As well as having every intention of keeping god away from her nylons, Mrs Kehoe warns her female-only clientele of the sinfulness of giddiness.
The many women Eilis meets offer small kindnesses, advice and insight to her own possible futures.
As she slowly builds a life for herself Eilis is torn between sweet suitors on either side of the pond.
Domhnall Gleeson Irish rugby fan is unknowingly pitted against Emory Cohen’s baseball fanatic Italian-American.
But a secret Eilis keeps even from her mother threatens to scupper her happiness.
As the cast disarms the audience with humour, the drama to creeps up with surprising power.
Though Ellis may not quite conquer New York, Ronan’s performance will capture your heart. And no doubt an award nomination or two as well.