best film: Saoirse Ronan has seven (7) films in the archives and four (4) of them are right at or near the best of their respective year of release. That is an extraordinary ratio and four (4) films of this caliber makes this category a strength for Ronan. Atonement comes first chronologically in 2007. This is Joe Wright’s (a vastly underrated technical master) finest hour – and Ronan plays Briony – a vital character. But it is Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest (2014) that ultimately triumphs here in this category. Ronan plays Agatha – a small, but significant role at Zero’s (Tony Revolori) love interest. Five years later it is Ronan this time that leads a talented ensemble – playing Jo March in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – definitely one of the best films of soon to be legendary year of 2019. In 2021, Ronan would again find herself in one of the best films of the year, and again it come working with Wes Anderson. But her role in The French Dispatch is closer to a cameo – just a few lines and there are a dozen or more actors in Wes’ ever-growing band of trope players that have more meat on the bone in their performance in this film.
best performance: There is not much separating Ronan’s top three performances. Her work in Atonement is astonishing, regardless of her age. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy (both very fine actors) have to be on their game to keep up with Ronan in their scenes together. Then, of course, there are the two Greta Gerwig films – Lady Bird and Little Women, that belong in this discussion. Little Women comes away as her best performance to date (with so much potential runway left in her future career). The film bounces with Ronan’s energy. Her Jo March is running down the road, scorching her dress by the fire – so very much alive. She is the best screen Jo March – or at least on par with Hepburn’s 1933 performance. She slays Winona Ryder’s 1994 (commendable – but not transcendent) performance. Ronan comes off with the greatest acting accomplishment of all those talented actors in the cast (Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern and others). The great Meryl Streep does not have many scenes in the film, but she adds something to her character that has never been there before in previous adaptations. And it is a privilege to watch her and Ronan spar briefly. Let’s not jinx it, but we may be looking back on those scenes decades from now talking about those two acting giants, separated by decades in age, working together (no pressure Saoirse Ronan!- haha).
stylistic innovations/traits: New York born, but Dublin raised Saoirse Ronan is the youngest actor on this list. She was born in 1994 giving her quite a bit of padding here (Emma Stone born 1988, Carey Mulligan born 1985 are next). Some may scoff at her placement on the list at such a young age, but she has more than twice as many archiveable films as Liza Minnelli (on this list just a few slots ago) and Ronan’s career as an actor has already lasted more than twice as long in duration as say Grace Kelly. She has an impressive four Oscar nominations before the age of twenty-six (26). For a little comparison, the great Meryl Streep, the all-time leader in nominations for an actor, did not have her first nomination until the ripe old age of twenty-nine (29). Ronan exudes strength in her roles – and often a powerful intellect – almost all of her characters seem to be gifted.
directors worked with: Joe Wright (2), Wes Anderson (2), Greta Gerwig (2)
top five performances:
- Little Women
- Lady Bird
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
|2014- The Grand Budapest Hotel|
|2017- Lady Bird|
|2019- Little Women|
|2021- The French Dispatch|