The immigrant experience is something that’s very much in the spotlight these days, and it’s comforting to be reminded that there was a time when it wasn’t demonised or presented in a relentlessly negative manner. This is a nostalgic and firmly old-fashioned story of a young Irish woman becoming an Irish-American, and embraces all the firmly melodramatic themes that come with such a tale. Originally a novel by Colm Tóibín, it benefits from a screenplay (by Nick Hornby, who seems to be ploughing an admirable furrow in adaptations that focus on female protagonists after An Education and Wild) that chooses to focus on pure human emotions, and letting the sociopolitical elements remain in the background.

It’s also helped enormously by a lead performance of incredible poise and maturity from Saoirse Ronan, who conveys every layer of the character’s conflicted feelings on leaving her homeland and the relationships there to find a new life overseas. The way both she and the film strive for grand feelings while avoiding sentimentality is quite a feat; instead they find something universally truthful and even profound at times. In a world that’s becoming increasingly globalised, and further populated by displaced people, this is a story that strikes a visceral, emotional chord.

A positive reminder that the immigrant experience is ultimately a human one8
Nick Hornby's unashamedly romantic and heartfelt screenplay9
Saoirse Ronan's assured and sophisticated lead performance9
Ultimately a straightforward, simple melodrama6
But a melodrama that wears its heart on its sleeve8
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one name female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
8Overall Score

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