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Saoirse Ronan highlights migrant plight at premiere of Brooklyn

Published 12/10/2015

Saoirse Ronan loves Ireland but says New York is the place to be for young people
Saoirse Ronan loves Ireland but says New York is the place to be for young people

Brooklyn star Saoirse Ronan hopes the film's tale of a young Irishwoman in New York will make people more sympathetic towards immigrants.

She said: "With everything that's going on now, with the migrant crisis, I think it's really a lovely time for something like this to come out.

"Regardless of where they're going to or coming from, when you are informed of an actual individual story, you care about it more. You care about these people more. You can connect to them in some way."

Struggling to find work in her home town in Ireland, Ronan's character Eilis Lacey moves to New York - leaving behind her beloved sister and mother to join the Big Apple's Irish community.

She initially battles intense homesickness as she longs to be back at home.

With the help of her landlady (Julie Walters) and Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) she starts to settle in - especially after meeting Italian Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen).

But when she has to return home for a family emergency, Eilis must choose between Tony back in New York - or her life back in Ireland, where she meets Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson).

The film - while dealing with love interests - could easily pass the Bechdel test, which requires that a movie features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

Only around half of films meet these criteria.

Speaking at the European gala premiere in London's Leicester Square as part of the BFI London Film Festival, Ronan said: "I think the unusual thing about this is, though we have seen females more and more lead movies, they've usually been surrounded by men. And there hasn't been an awful lot of female interaction on screen.

"The amazing thing about this is that there are a lot of scenes that are just a tableful of women, and they're not necessarily talking about a man, and they're not being catty to each other, and it's entertaining, and it's insightful. It would be nice if we got to see a bit more of that."

Ronan, herself Irish-American, has previously revealed how closely she identifies with the character - especially as she herself had just left home and moved to London before filming.

The 21-year-old recalled: "I remember one woman came up to me at Sundance (Film Festival)... And she had no connection to Ireland at all, but her daughter had just moved over to the UK to go to college. And she burst into tears, and I burst into tears, and we hugged each other, and we were like: 'I know how you feel!'

"That was amazing to be part of something where we had this shared experience with each other."

Cohen, 25 who plays Eilis's Italian love interest Tony, said he was attracted to the role because "it was a love story".

The actor, who plays Leo in NBC series Smash, added: "I haven't really done a love story before, I usually beat people up."

The film is Nick Hornby's adaptation of the award-winning novel by Irish author Colm Toibin.

Hornby said: "One of the really interesting things about the film is that wrenching, awful sickness of being taken out of somewhere you know and put somewhere else. All the millions and millions of people in the world who are going through that, I think by personalising the story it does help break down barriers."

Explaining how he kept his distance from Hornby to give him creative space, Toibin said: "I didn't even have an email address or a phone number for him. I just let him get on with it."

The author, who is from the town in Ireland where the story is set, said: "It's everybody's story, but of course it is the story, if you see somebody sad who's come from Lithuania, or who's come from Syria, you think - I think I know what you're going through, because I've seen this film. And that's important."

The film's director John Crowley said: "It's profoundly moving, this story. I guess personally, I had moved to London 18 years ago, and I'd never felt that I'd seen this version of an immigration story."

He added: "It's not a film that has a political agenda in any big sense, it's a small personal film. But if you empathise with somebody who is immigrating, you see what it is actually like - and this film is a really close examination of what that actually means to leave your homeland, and not be from the country that you're then in, and then when you go home to not quite be from there either.

"I think if you can empathise with that then that is, on some very small level, a political act. Because it's humanising."

Vanessa Feltz attended the premiere with fiance Ben Ofoedu, while Dermot O'Leary posed for pictures on the red carpet with his wife Dee Koppang.

:: Brooklyn will be released in cinemas on November 6.

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