Warning: This piece contains spoilers about the end of Brooklyn
In Brooklyn, Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis Lacey, an Irish immigrant living in 1950s New York who must make a very tough choice in life and love.
The film, directed by John Crowley, begins with Eilis moving from her homeland to the title New York borough, where she soon starts a romantic relationship with Italian-American sweetheart Tony (The Place Beyond the Pines’ Emory Cohen). But when she briefly returns to Ireland because of a family matter, she also falls for local man Jim (Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Domhnall Gleeson).
Therein lies her dilemma: a life in Brooklyn with Tony, or one back home with Jim. Ronan had previously said that she could see how Eilis might have ended up with either man in their respective homes. But here, the Irish-American actress addresses whether she thinks Eilis made the right decision by choosing — drumroll, please — to continue on with her path in America.
“You’ll never know exactly what was going to be the right choice for her, but I think it was the braver choice to make,” says Ronan of Eilis’ tough call at the end of the film, which has a script by Nick Hornby based on the novel by Colm Tóibín. “Taken into consideration the woman that she had become, it wouldn’t be right for her to revert back to that old life. She was so much more than that by the time we leave her. She’d evolved too much. She was so much bigger than this small, little town, and I think she would have spent the rest of her life mourning that.”
Ronan qualifies all of this by adding that she, as the actress who played Eilis, wouldn’t want to say that it would have been wrong for her character to return to the Emerald Isle for good. But in the end, she supports Eilis’ choice. “No matter what, once you’re in that situation, there will always be a sacrifice, but she’s going back to a life that is solely hers and Tony is a part of that,” Ronan continues, “as opposed to moving into Jim’s family’s house and taking over [her sister] Rose’s job and essentially living someone else’s life. This is hers, so I think it was the right decision.”
Naturally, Cohen couldn’t agree more, especially on the romantic front. “Am I really supposed to say, ‘No, I think she should have gone with the other guy?’” he quips when asked about Eilis’ tough call. “How am I going to be able to call myself an actor and be like, ‘I saw the movie, and at the end I was like, she should have gone with the other guy?’”
With a laugh, he says, “I think there’s only one option at the end of the movie.”