Actress Saoirse Ronan is earning critical praise and Oscar buzz for her role as a young Irish immigrant in director John Crowley's romantic drama Brooklyn.
The immigrant tale, which writer Nick Hornby adapted from Colm Toibin's hit novel, is being praised for its simplicity and riveting performances by its young cast, including Ronan (an earlier Academy Award nominee for her breakthrough role in 2007's Atonement), Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson.
Set in the 1950s, Brooklyn explores the journey of Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey (Ronan), who leaves her small village for New York to pursue the American Dream. But she struggles with the choice to leave the only home she knows behind.
Ronan, who is in almost every scene of the movie, said she felt the pressure, but mostly from herself.
"We made half of it in Ireland, with an Irish crew who I had worked with before, and so for me this was for them. And I felt that the whole country was going to be watching," she told CBC News in September, when the film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The 21-year-old actress admitted that during the shoot, she called her mom every night after work to help quell her fears.
"I was convinced that I was doing this an atrocious job," she said. "It was very gratifying but it was a very tough job to do – emotionally very tough."
As she creates a new life for herself in Brooklyn, Ronan's character finds herself caught between two love interests: a young Italian-American named Tony (Emory Cohen) and an Irishman back home, played by Domhnall Gleeson.
While Ronan felt anxious about her performance, up-and-coming actor Cohen said he felt intimidated by his co-star.
"She's a brilliant artist. I was very nervous around her. I still am," said the 25-year-old actor.
Cohen said he tried to use those nerves to his advantage when filming in scenes with Ronan, whom he referred to as "the queen of Ireland."
"She has that kind of presence about her."
With its restrained, straightforward story, Brooklyn is somewhat of an anomaly at today's box office, typically dominated by dystopian sagas, raunchy comedies, comic-book blockbusters and sci-fi spectacles.
"It's a very nuanced kind of story. It's very human. It's very, kind of, normal. And it's a journey that every one of us have gone through, who has left home," said Ronan.
"But the complexities within that, the very subtle complexities and hurdles or obstacles that we all face when we leave home for the first time, seem so momentous and so huge... In retrospect, it doesn't seem like it was so big at all. I think the story really reflects that."