Year: 2015
Production Co: Wildgaze Films
Director: John Crowley
Writer: Nick Hornby/Colm Tóibín
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen

This movie doesn't pretend to be anything except from the glossy, prestigious, well-dressed love story it turns out to be, but you might have been expecting a harder edge and a bit more grit. If you're happy with a sun-kissed romance where it's all about the love and yearning of young heroine Eilis (Saoirse Ronan, finally playing a role in her native accent), you'll be perfectly happy to swoon and sigh along with her.

If you're anyone else, you'll be waiting for at least one scene of abuse, crime or degradation of the underclass, but this is all bit too airbrushed and twee to be that film.

The character of Eilis (pronounced 'i-lish' feels like a kind of cypher to tell the grand unified story of the immigrant experience for a generation of young Irish women who left for America in the 1950s. With work and opportunity scarce at home, they piled into the lowest accommodations aboard steamships and later found themselves on the dingy docks of New York City to live in boarding houses and become uneducated shop assistants as Eilis does.

For the first half of the movie it seems to be all about ticking boxes. She nearly dies of homesickness, makes friends, gets to know her housemates, falls in love, starts studying to make something of herself and finally seems to have made a life in a new land.

But an unexpected death in the family means Eilis has to travel back to Ireland where she feels a pull she thought she'd forgotten. With a trade under her belt she's in a better position and smarter than most of the people she left behind and even starts to develop feelings for one of the local private school boys she couldn't stand a few years before, Jim (Domhnall Gleeson).

When you start to wonder if Eilis is going to stay with Jim in Ireland and throw away her new life in New York and the man she still loves, it reminds you of the love triangle of Twilight or The Hunger Games. A cynic would suggest it might have been a way to get younger audiences interested, but the film is an adaptation of a novel, so surely not.

Ronan is wonderful in the role, her first as a grown woman, and her lilting voice and soft features make you hope she gets what she wants. Emory Cohen as her Italian boyfriend Tony is the worst casting since Keira Knightley played a bounty hunter. He looks like an Italian-American like Ronan looks like a pro wrestler, and his accent is straight out of a stand-up comedy act.

It's a Cinderella story – and a good one if that's what you're looking for – but we can be pretty sure the lives of young Irish women who sailed alone to New York weren't so gilt-edged.

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