FILM OF THE WEEK: Brooklyn (12A) ****

Saoirse Ronan with one of her potential suitors in Brooklyn. Picture: PA Photo/Lionsgate.
Saoirse Ronan with one of her potential suitors in Brooklyn. Picture: PA Photo/Lionsgate.
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Young hearts run free on opposite sides of the Atlantic in John Crowley’s handsome romance.

Set in the early 1950s, Brooklyn harks back to a bygone era of restrictive social mores and is anchored by a tour-de-force performance from Saoirse Ronan as an innocent abroad in New York.

The 21-year-old Irish-American actress doesn’t hit a false emotional note, contrasting the naivete of her heroine’s early days away from home with the self-assurance of an immigrant, who finally realises that she belongs.

Sweeping production and costume design evoke the era with aplomb, accentuated by Michael Brook’s gorgeous orchestral score.

Equally appealing are Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson as rival suitors for the heroine’s affections.

Both actors kindle smouldering on-screen chemistry with Ronan, so we’re undecided, like her, which of them she should choose.

Eilis Lacey (Ronan) lives with her mother (Jane Brennan) and older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott), and earns a meagre crust – and withering rebukes – at the local shop.

Thanks to Rose, Eilis secures a one-way ticket to a brighter future in New York.

Holy man Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) places Eilis at a boarding house for single girls; at first she’s homesick, but this gradually fades and she excels as a salesgirl at a department store.

She also sparks a tender romance with handsome plumber Tony (Cohen).

Painfully innocent to courtship rituals, Eilis turns to the other girls at the boarding house for advice.

After a while, the lovebirds marry in secret, but when Eilis returns home to Enniscorthy, local boy Jim Farrell (Gleeson) unexpectedly turns her head and makes her hanker for the small-town life.

Brooklyn is a classic, old-fashioned love triangle, which combines elegant storytelling, strong performances and swoonsome visuals.

Toibin’s lyrical dialogue trips off the tongue in Hornby’s script, succinctly capturing the ebb and flow of life for young dreamers, who come to realise that home isn’t necessarily where you were born.