In Dylan Thomas’s radio drama Under Milk Wood, Polly Garter exclaims “Oh, isn’t life a terrible thing, thank God.” How true this is for Eilis Lacey, emigrating from Ireland to Brooklyn, New York. As for so many of her generation, however, building a new life in the promised land of America was a bittersweet affair. In John Crowley’s beautifully paced film, based on Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name, Eilis is played with conviction and reserve by Saoirse Ronan, who commands the screen for nearly two hours. Eilis is radiant, convincingly undaunted by whatever tribulations that beset her. Nick Hornby’s sharp and often very funny script keeps those challenges bracingly emotional rather than melodramatic. He never cheats us with predictable conflicts; the story draws us in with its patience and unhurried pace. Ronan’s luminous blue eyes and gentle command of the character tugs at our hearts. This is one of the year’s best collaborations of writing, directing, and performance. MORE . . .