Why Saoirse Ronan Deserves An Oscar For Her Carefully Powerful Performance In 'Brooklyn'
John Crowley's new film, Brooklyn, follows the story of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman from Enniscorthy, County Wexford, and her immigration to America. The framework of the film is refreshingly simple, but it never feels claustrophobic, or boring, or lacking of anything. Probably because Ronan breathes life into the plot, channeling a kind of rare and subdued power that should guarantee the young actress a win at the Oscars this year. That's right, I said it: Give Saoirse Ronan the Oscar, already! She deserves the accolade entirely, and since The New York Film Critics Circe just named Ronan the best actress of 2015, she might have a pretty good shot.
Though she's only 21, Ronan has been making films for years. The Irish actress most notably starred as Briony Tallis in 2007's Atonement, for which received both Golden Globes and Academy Awards nominations, and it seems that she hasn't really made a career misstep since then, what with racking up big films like the action flick Hanna, and Wes Anderson's highly-acclaimed The Grand Budapest Hotel. But it's her role in Brooklyn that solidifies Ronan as a star — even if that sounds like an antiquated and cliched statement to make.
Brooklyn is a film that's obsessed with identity — as most immigration narratives are — but if the titular character strips herself of belonging to any one place, we are certain that the young woman standing before us belongs exactly where she's been put. On screen.
In my opinion, Brooklyn lends much (most) of its success to Ronan. That's not to say it isn't a beautiful film — it's just a beautiful film that relies heavily on its lead to work, particularly because the story it aims to tell is so small in scope. Ronan's nuances, the way the whole narrative is refracted back at us through her movements — and at times what feels like just her eyes — carries the film through all its own quiet uncertainties. You can see the wheels spinning — wheels of both deliberation trepidation — in Ronan's eyes in particular, as she deals with losing things (herself, her homeland, to name a few) and gaining others (new friends, a career, a transatlantic love story).
It should be noted that Ronan's chemistry with everyone in the film is palpable, and their performances are stunning as well. Still, I'd argue it's only because of Ronan that Brooklyn never becomes compromised by its own confinement, but rather heightened because of it. Her powerful simplicity mirrors that of the film, as Brooklyn steadily grows into something much larger and meaningful than the sum of its parts.
I won't reveal too much more about the film and Ronan's character, Eilis, except to commend the source material (Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name, and the adapted screenplay by Nick Hornby) for providing Ronan with a backdrop to do incredible work. Because the character of Eilis had room be well-rounded and complex, and wasn't criticized for being a "clever girl", but lauded for it instead, Ronan was able to celebrate and expand her character's intelligence, by way of an intelligent performance.
That's to reiterate, Ronan does something smart with Eilis. Something that aides the larger, holistic vision of the film. She imbues Eilis with so much commanding subtlety, that the simplification of Brooklyn becomes Brooklyn's advantage. The reason even, why it works so well.
Images: Lionsgate (3)