At the tender age of twenty-six, Saoirse Ronan already boasts a career that spans over thirteen years. She has racked up an impressive five BAFTA nominations, a Golden Globe win and a filmography many veteran actors can only aspire to. Behind Jennifer Lawrence, she is also the second youngest person to gain four Oscar nominations.
Ronan is no doubt one of the most talented actresses of her generation, and her career is only just getting started. In honour of her 26thbirthday, let’s take a look back at her top five roles so far.
5. Atonement (2007)
This was the role that brought Ronan to international prominence. She plays the precocious teenager Briony Tallis, in Joe Wright’s 2007 adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel. Heart-breaking and powerful, Wright’s film struck the perfect chord with critics and performed well at the box office, but it’s Ronan’s performance that stands out. Ronan plays the troublesome Briony with a power and intensity that garnered her at Oscar nomination at only 13 years old. Briony might be one of the most disliked characters in modern film history, but you have to hand it to Ronan for bringing life to a character that can garner that kind of response.
4. Hanna (2011)
Hanna is arguably one of the most underrated films of the 2010s. Ronan teamed up with Joe Wright once again in 2011, this time playing a teenage girl raised in the wilderness by her father and trained as an assassin. The film is dark and stylish and Ronan plays the title character with a skilful combination of ruthlessness and innocence. Although the character has since been adapted for TV by Amazon Video, it is worth watching the original film for Ronan’s performance.
3. Brooklyn (2015)
Ronan marked her transition to more mature roles with her turn in 2015’s Brooklyn. She plays a young Irish immigrant who moves to Brooklyn in the 1950s in search of a better life. The film is charming and deeply moving, receiving widespread critical acclaim and attracting significant praise for Ronan’s performance. Ronan herself has dual Irish and American citizenship, having been born in New York but raised in Ireland. When speaking on the film, she said that she ‘related [to every] single saying, every aspect of what her journey is.’ It is a powerful film about immigrant life that Ronan carries with her personal and poignant performance.
2. Lady Bird (2017)
In 2017, Ronan made her first collaboration with Greta Gerwig, in the coming-of-age comedy-drama film Lady Bird. Ronan plays the title character, Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson, who struggles to find herself in her final year of high school. Ronan captures Lady Bird’s caustic wit and heartfelt vulnerability perfectly under the wonderful directorship of Gerwig. The film is a nuanced balance of playful comedy and painful heartache that allows Ronan to demonstrate her formidable acting skills in a role that feels written for her. Ronan expertly navigates Lady Bird’s struggles with love, friendship, family and identity and once again gained an Oscar nomination for her performance.
1. Little Women (2019)
Only last year, Ronan teamed up with Greta Gerwig once again for Hollywood’s latest adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s iconic novel. Ronan takes centre stage as the most interesting of the March sisters, the rebellious and ambitious Jo March. It is a role that has been memorably played by actresses Winona Ryder and Katherine Hepburn, but Ronan breathes fresh life into the role, balancing Jo’s steadfast determination and desperate fragility wonderfully. Just her climactic monologue about her own loneliness is a masterclass in acting. Credit must be given to Florence Pugh for her wonderful turn as Amy March, but this is truly Ronan’s film.