The real art of filmmaking comes to picture when you see a film which has absolutely everything to earn even an indifferent viewer’s attention. Directed by John Crowley, Brooklyn follows an Irish Girl, Eilis who leaves a dark, uneventful Ireland for colorful, full of opportunity and open for immigrants, Brooklyn. However, despite the hospitality of Brooklyn, Eilis must make a life-changing choice, the choice is all what this film is about.
Saoirse Ronan, who played Agatha in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, this time tries a more difficult character to portray, more profound, enigmatic, smart, and confident Eilis, who with her bright mind is ready to conquer the World. But that is something you certainly must find out, as the movie opens on November 20th in Toronto (Varsity) and Vancouver (Park).
During the Toronto International Film Festival which took place from September 10th to 20th in 2015, I got a chance to ask Saoirse Ronan a few questions about her role, transformation, and of course, to share with us how was it playing a powerful character like Eilis.
MOVIEMOVESME: Your director said you were looking for a role for your transition into adult roles and you got a sense of looking for quality. Can you talk about how you came to Brooklyn and talk about Eilis?
Saoirse Ronan: It was very important for me, I didn’t see it much as a transition as it’s a step everyone needs to make if you start off quite young. I felt ready to play a young woman who was sort of in the same place as I was. It was about finding a good quality script in that sense but also I did really wanna play an Irish person. And on top of that to find a strong female character that had depth to her, was interesting. So there are a lot of different things you think about, but yeah it was definitely very important for me to find the right Irish script to do. Then John came along when I was about to turn 19 and I was thinking about moving away. At that time I was in London and so I thought I’m gonna make that move. So in the time I had met John and signed on to do the film with him to when we actually made the movie, I had moved away and I have experienced that homesickness that Eilis feels. I loved the script initially but it became something else completely by the time I actually shot it. Sometimes it became too personal.
MOVIEMOVESME: You were crying then too?
Saoirse Ronan: Yeah, yeah I cried quite a bit! But it was great and really terrifying. I was so convinced that I’ll mess it up, even talked to my mum when down in the country. She told me I’ll do a good job, what they need me to do. By the end of it was like we had run a marathon together and it’s satisfying to know you put everything behind it.
MOVIEMOVESME: Was it easy for you to make the script your own, to make if feel more real?
Saoirse Ronan: The only change I wanted to make was every time she said the word “mom” to refer to her mother. Somebody from that background in that town wouldn’t say “mom”, so I wanted to change it to “mum”. That was it! I’m not somebody who really likes to change things, I feel like if I sign on to a script because I love it and I believe in it so. It’s only when something really doesn’t feel right do I say, “No, I think we should go about it this way…” I feel it’s kind of my job to make it work. But in this movie it wasn’t like that because it was like playing a slightly different version of not myself but the same situation.
MOVIEMOVESME: Brooklyn is about two important life-changing decisions. What is your interpretation of that and Eilis’ expectation?
Saoirse Ronan: By the time she takes the huge huge step of moving to New York, something that initially wasn’t her decision as her sister was the one to set it up for her. And I think the turning point in her experience was when she started to take control of her own life. And she’s around my age so it’s the time when you usually start to take hold of matters, what you want out of your life and work and relationships and your friendships and morals and all these thing. So that’s what New York gives her. It’s all very new and subtle the change that she makes, even her fashion, her clothes and how she speaks to men is very different by the time she comes back home. Ireland has stayed the same, nothing’s really changed but she has.
MOVIEMOVESME: She doesn’t even seem to notice that change until she comes back to Ireland, from the reflection of herself back from people who used to know her.
Saoirse Ronan: Exactly, she left the Eilis behind when she moved away. I’m sure by this stage you’ve all moved from your parent’s house (laughs). When you’ve gone through that transition out of fear, out of the need to survive, of having to create a new version of yourself, you have to. Especially in New York, a different city.
MOVIEMOVESME: Do you think that Eilis loves Tony or loves America because she’s sort of a little quick to forget about him?
Saoirse Ronan: Those letters stay in the drawer for a while! You know that gets the biggest reaction, everyone just gasps in the audience apparently. I do think she loves Tony, I don’t think she’s moving as quickly as him. Like a lot of young men around that age they feel something and they commit to it and they go with it and I think for her she’s still finding her footing in the new place and adjusting to the new role in a different city for herself. He’s moving pretty quickly; he gets in there straightaway. So I think she does need to take a step back, needs to go to Ireland to realize that this is the life she wants. What I like about this is that’s it not like she doesn’t love James and only loves Tony; John said to me in rehearsals that it comes down to her going through a lot of experiences to be able to make a choice, to be empowered enough and to be experienced enough in life to make a choice. That’s important to have because it’s not like she’s a damsel in distress and we’ve got the bad guy and the good guy. She needs to go through a bit before she decides what she wants.
MOIEMOVESME: What made Eilis decide or what took over her mind, was it stability?
Saoirse Ronan: I think the turning point is when she has that showdown with Mrs Kelly, who is not that bad a woman. She’s got her own issues. I think that was the turning point because she really was on the fence board. I think it wasn’t as black and white that she loved James. But that was a very attractive possibility to be at home and have security and be with someone that she connected with. So both options were quite lovely and the beauty of the movie is that you don’t know if she’s made the right choice. But the fact that she’s made it is what the film’s about.