Ronan’s career best performance and honest script combine in superb style

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With impressive performances in Atonement, The Lovely Bones, Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel, 21-year-old Saoirse Ronan already stands out as one of the finest actresses of her generation, writes Natalie Stendall.

Now Brooklyn looks like being her career best.

Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín and adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, it tells the story of Eilis, a young Irish immigrant starting her life afresh in Brooklyn during the 1950s.

Ultimately Eilis must choose between two lovers each on opposite sides of the Atlantic: one is a cute, effervescent Italian-American (Emory Cohen), the other a middle-class Irish rugby player (Domnhall Gleeson).

But this isn’t an average romance and director John Crowley (Boy A) doesn’t make the dilemma easy on his audience. Both suitors are equally charming and their feelings of rejection are beautifully captured by cinematographer Yves Bélanger (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) whose aesthetic combines vibrant 50s colours with delicate lighting.

The result is a world as alluring as it is painful.

At the core of this neat but emotionally complicated coming-of-age romance is a story about family and its responsibilities. Universal observations about flying the nest are Brooklyn’s greatest strength, anchored by Ronan whose vulnerable performance carefully unites self-reproach with a spirited determination to carve her own future.

Hornby’s savvy, honest writing and Ronan’s subtle sensibilities are a breathtaking combination, making Brooklyn’s potent depiction of identity and home sickness difficult to shake.

5/5

Brooklyn is showing at Nottingham Broadway until Thursday, November 26