Saoirse Ronan, the star of “Brooklyn,” felt a personal connection to the film, not only because the character she plays is an Irish immigrant living in the United States, but because the homesickness her character feels in the film is something Ronan still suffers from today.
“Homesickness is something you, as we all know, don’t get over in a couple of weeks and I am very much still going through homesickness and the grief you feel when you leave home for the first time,” said the 21-year-old actress, who had moved from Ireland to London during the year between accepting the role in “Brooklyn” and the start of production.
“It just meant it was an incredibly personal project to be involved in,” added Ronan on Tuesday during a Q&A after TheWrap’s screening of “Brooklyn” at the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles.
Ronan grew up in Ireland, but she was born in the Bronx. Sitting alongside director John Crowley, producer Finola Dwyer, screenwriter Nick Hornby and production designer Francois Seguin, she explained that in the 1980s, Ireland suffered from a bad recession prompting her Irish parents to move to New York.
“Initially, that was the main connection for me,” Ronan added. “It was my first proper Irish project that centered around an Irish character, so it was really important for me to find my first Irish role to play that I was really passionate about and something that I felt connected to.”
Crowley believes he got more out of his leading lady than he expected because of her personal connection to the plot.
“Saoirse’s work spoke for itself,” he said. “It felt like the perfect opportunity for her to show a full range of what she could do. It was a performance which would take her from a young girl to a young woman within one film. Life thankfully intervened and gave her all the ammunition that she needed to knock it out of the park.”
Ronan received an award for her role at the Palm Springs Film Festival last week.
Throughout the film, she has little dialogue. Instead, the camera captures closeups of her face where her expressions tell most of the story. This didn’t deem a big problem for Ronan, who felt it was a very natural way for her to tell the story.
“To actually play someone who is very close to who you are is a little harder — that was the biggest challenge, more than not saying anything,” she said.
Additionally starring Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters, “Brooklyn” follows a young Irish immigrant moving from her hometown to Brooklyn to live a better life. Plagued with homesickness, she soon falls in love and is happy, until an incident at home forces her to make a return visit. Being there, she becomes torn between the two countries and the people that come with them.
Hornby believes that this film resonates with the audience because the majority of people have felt that overwhelming feeling of missing home — a sentiment the audience seemed to agree with.
“Most of us move, most of us experience that homesickness,” he said. “Once you’ve left your hometown, life has changed forever and you can never quite shake it back to what it was.”
Watch the Q&A above.