Directed by John Crowley
This lovely fish-out-of-water story is nearly flawless. And whatever minor blemishes it does possess are wiped away by the porcelain-skinned performance of Saoirse Ronan and Nick Hornby’s beautiful script. In fact, it is one of the best film portrayals of three different phenomena I’ve seen: abject home-sickness, puppy-love, and This-Room-Seemed-So-Much-Larger-When-I-Left-It awareness.
John Crowley has directed with a very light touch, thankfully, which allows the performances, the photography and the art direction to flourish and convince. The three environments of the film (Enniscorthy, Wexford; Brooklyn, NY; and the TransAtlantic steamer), all seem as authentic as the novelist, Colm Tolbin, intended and, as a result, it is easy to get lost in the subtle and heart-felt expressions of the lead actress.
Hornby’s script is, likewise, minimalist yet safe in the hands of such fine performers. I don’t recall such a subtle script from him previously, but I applaud the nuance…and I had deep reactions without ever feeling I was being instructed to do so or remotely manipulated.
The cast is uniformly exceptional. Domnhall Gleeson and Emory Cohen are easy to fall in love with due to their earnest portrayals, but never venture close to the edge of stereotype, which would be easy to do, given their time and place. But Ronan is the life of this slice. She had me balling within seconds and laughing, with her, throughout. Thus far, in a very large field of remarkable female performances, hers will be the one to beat until further notice (and that includes Mara, Blanchett, Larson, et al), with the POSSIBLE exception of Carey Mulligan’s Bathsheba Everdeen from the criminally undermentioned, “Far From the Madding Crowd.”
Michael Brook’s score, interlaced with late-forties and early-fifties dance-hall tunes, is lovingly (and appropriately) reminiscent of Carter Burwell’s “Miller’s Crossing” work. And, like Hornby’s script, successfully enhances emotion. But there is a moment of singing within the framework of the script that will haunt me for some time. You will know what I mean when you see it (so kudos to Iarla O. Lionaird).
This is a tissue-box drama. It won’t change the world, but it will remind you of how far you’ve come from that place you never thought you’d survive the leaving of.
WARNING: The trailer gives away more than I would…just a heads up: