Ronan relates to Éilis’s loneliness

Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen in "Brooklyn." FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Silver Screen / By Karen Butler

Bronx-born, Howth-raised actress Saoirse Ronan says she could easily relate to Éilis, the young immigrant caught between two worlds that she plays in the new movie “Brooklyn.”

Directed by John Crowley, screenwriter Nick Hornby’s big-screen adaptation of Colm Toibin’s 1950s-set book co-stars Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters. The critically acclaimed film follows a girl as she leaves Ireland for what she hopes will be a better life in New York City. At first uneasy about her new surroundings,

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

Éilis gets a job and falls in love with an Italian-American boy named Tony. When tragedy strikes back home, she returns to comfort her family and finds herself conflicted about where she really belongs.

“I really do feel the weight that you experience – the heaviness you experience – when you are homesick and you leave home for the first time and haven’t quite settled anywhere and are sort of floating between these two different places and you can’t quite go back to where you are from, but you’re not quite settled in this place that you’re moving towards either,” the 21-year-old actress said at a recent London Film Festival press conference. “And, then, definitely that sense of loss and vulnerability, you don’t really know when that is going to be lifted. From the time that I had met John initially to discuss the script to when we actually made the film – which was a year later – I had moved away [from Ireland back to New York,] so I was right in the middle of that feeling and the heaviness that Colm and Nick describe so well through their writing. I guess I can liken it to reading a book or listening to a piece of music or watching a film yourself that just completely speaks to you and, for whatever reason, you feel like you’re going to be connected to it for life. That’s how it felt sort of with every scene that we shot. That was quite unusual for me to not be able to turn off my emotions at the end of the day.”

Asked if the slow-moving, buttoned-up type of courting appealed to her or if she preferred the casual, often tech-driven style of dating in the 21st century, the star of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Host,” “The Lovely Bones,” “City of Ember” and “Atonement” replied: “To be honest, I think it is a very personal thing.

“People can get quite judgmental about – or prejudiced even –to how people find each other and develop relationships,” she noted. “It is scary that technology is kind of taking over as much as it is. It’s become part of every aspect of communication, which is kind of terrifying. It’s really a personal choice to just kind of make a point of focusing on the person that’s right in front of you. This physical thing that’s right in front of you, instead of looking at a screen. And, for me, that’s very important. … I think the romantic side of courting… we see with Eilis and Tony that they have to follow certain steps. One leads on to the next thing and leads on to the next thing and leads on to marriage and leads on to sex and leads on to babies and all that sort of stuff and there is a beautiful kind of romanticism to that and knowing you have to follow this along the way, even though you’ve got this bubbling excitement and chemistry and all these different feelings underneath the surface. So, I think there is something quite exciting about that, but it is a very personal thing for everyone. ”

So, what did Ronan think of how her character’s fashion sense evolves in “Brooklyn?”

“It’s all quite delicate and it’s all quite gradual and it’s only when she goes back to Ireland that we see suddenly how many pop colors she is wearing in her clothes and she has sunglasses on!” pointed out Ronan whose Irish parents Monica and Paul have also worked as actors.

“I even remember when I was younger, I wouldn’t wear sunglasses. I had a thing about sunglasses where I thought, ‘Oh, no, that’s too flashy!’ At home; maybe just because the sun doesn’t exist at home. You don’t need sunglasses. But that’s a very confident thing. You need to be able to hold yourself in order to wear those kinds of outfits and, so, we had mapped that. I’m really always drawn to greens and blues and I’ve always thought that’s quite important because it suited me, but, also, it represented the journey she went on. I just liked the idea of it representing land and water and, so, we worked in that way with the color palette, as well.”

“Brooklyn” is in theaters now. Ronan is to make her Broadway debut in “The Crucible” opposite Ciaran Hinds in February.