I’ve seen a lot of films, from The Godfather, Part II, to The Emigrants to Avalon, to In America, about people coming to America to seek their fortunes, but this is the only one I can recall about someone going back to their home country. Saoirse Ronan is Eilis Lacey, who is able to flee the stifling surroundings of her hometown in Ireland, leaving her beloved sister, Rose, and mother behind. She hopes to be able to send for them soon with the money she earns. She arrives in New York in the early 1950s and settles in a boarding house in Brooklyn. She has a job in a big department store. She is shy, finding it difficult to fit in with the openness of American people. She suffers crippling homesickness. But gradually she adapts. She gets better at her job as a store clerk, and the local priest helps her take bookkeeping classes, and she is very good at it. She is wooed by Tony, an Italian boy.
Then it all falls apart. Rose dies unexpectedly. Eilis is determined to return for the funeral, but Tony proposes that they secretly marry. She agrees. Then she finds herself back in Ireland … and it’s not all bad. One thing after another conspire to keep her there. She eventually has a temporary job doing books, and it could obviously turn into something permanent. Even better, a handsome and fairly rich boy is courting her. He looks like he would make a great husband … but there is the little matter of Tony.
She comes to her senses after being confronted by the horrible harridan she used to work for, who has discovered the secret marriage. Eilis stares her down and says “I had forgotten how awful things are here.” And just like that, she is off to her new home in America.
I liked this a lot. Saoirse Ronan is such an appealing actress. I have loved her since Atonement, for which she got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, and she totally deserved her nomination this year for Best Actress.