A young woman emigrates in 1952 from Ireland to the title NYC borough. After a crippling bout of homesickness, she gets a job, gains confidence, and attracts a nice Italian-American beau. But when her sister’s death mandates a visit to Ireland, she faces a succession of charming attempts to lure her into staying.

The story is simple and universally familiar. Its themes are choice, sacrifice, commitment, identity, love, and what we call home. And it’s presented in an understated and old-fashioned way. But still waters run emotionally deep, and this one will grab you and hold you. It’s amazing how it can walk the cusp of melodrama, yet so adroitly avoid even a trace of sentimentality. Though the story of one Irish immigrant, over the length of the film, it morphs into a moving group portrait.

Such a tale in lesser hands than director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby (from a novel by Colm Tóibín) could have easily devolved into a pile of clichés.

But the main reason for this big-hearted, luminous film’s success is Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), in her most mature role to date. She makes her character someone we care what happens to. She receives excellent support from Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jane Brennan, Julie Walters, and Jim Broadbent. Superb cinematography, costume, and production design as well.

Masterfully crafted, sweetly sincere, and robustly romantic, this is the kind of film they used to make. (111 min)