Twenty-one-year-old actress Saoirse Ronan (“The Host,” “Atonement,” “Grand Budapest Hotel”) stars in the beautifully- done historical period drama, “Brooklyn,” a film directed by John Crowley and released November 4. Her character Eilis Lacey is a young Irish immigrant in the 1950s who immigrates to Brooklyn by boat in the hopes of achieving the “American Dream.”
It seems the role of Eilis was crafted with Ronan in mind. She was born in New York and lived in Ireland with parents who were Irish immigrants like Eilis, College Times talked with Ronan about how the role helped her become the charming woman she is today and what she feels is the true message of “Brooklyn.”
College Times: How emotionally invested do you think you were in the character of Eilis since you both come from New York and Ireland?
Ronan: These two places really very much made up who I am, but by the time we actually made the film, which was maybe a year or so after I had signed on, I had moved away from home and was living in London and was going through homesickness myself and still trying to figure out where I stood in the grown-up world. It’s a very daunting feeling I think, and I was right in the middle of that while we were making the film, so it meant that every kind of stage that we see Eilis reaching and overcoming, I was going through myself. It was very scary because of that, because there was sort of nowhere to hide, but by the same token, once you actually get through something like that there’s nothing more gratifying.
When people go to see this movie, what do you want them to take away from it?
I think honestly, I mean John [Crowley, director] has put it really well whenever anyone’s asked, just to be kind to people. I think the real—if there’s any message with this film, apart from the personal connections that everyone has seemed to have to us in one way or another, the heart of this movie is that she gets on well in life and she grows, and she grows into this amazing young woman because the people around her have been kind to her and they’ve helped her and they’ve shared advice and wisdom and their experience. And because of that, she has been able to, as I said, ultimately stand up and announce who she is and realize that she needs to make a choice. She wouldn’t have been able to do that at the start of the film, she wasn’t there yet. It’s really—it’s the people around her that helped her to come out of herself in order for her to get the confidence and have that security in who she is.
“Brooklyn” seems to draw a lot of its power and charm from the fact that it is a period piece and there’s a genuine disconnect, both cultural and communicative, between the two countries. Do you believe that this story could effectively work in modern time in a world that’s reliant on Internet, Skype and social media?
Yes, actually I think it would be really interesting to see a similar journey be taken now, because we’ve all gone through it. We’ve all left home, gone to college, moved away to a different country or a different state, and regardless of how much technology enables us to communicate with the people we love, whether it’s over the phone or visually, obviously that does make it a little bit more bearable, but that feeling that you get when you move away and you realize that once you’ve moved away you can never kind of go back to how it was and is universal and is similar to anyone else who’s gone through it before, it’s similar. It’s the same feeling. It hasn’t really changed. And so I think it would be really interesting in spite of the amount of communication we have now to see someone go through that and show that in spite of the amount of technology we have now, it’s still just as hard and it’s still just as heartbreaking for people.