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Saturday, November 11, 2006

In America Movie Review


In America

2003

Directed by: Jim Sheridan

Written by: Jim and Naomi Sheridan

Starring: Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger, Djimon Hounsou

Rated: PG-13 for sexuality, drug references, brief violence and language.

105 minutes

The irish family in this movie, In America, is slipping into the United States. As they pull up to the border in their battered old station wagon, the parents remind their two young daughters, “Remember, we’re just on holiday.”

As the border guard leans casually in the window to speak to the father, the youngest daughter, Ariel, shouts out merrily from the back seat. “We’re on holiday!”

Dread clutches the viewer as the guard nods at his partner, closing the gate firmly in front of the car. Oh shit, we’re thinking, she’s ruined it all! And yet within moments, the sunshine-bright personality of this child burns the doubt from the guard’s mind, or perhaps charms him into not giving a crap that they’re illegal immigrants, and the family is let on in with a, “Welcome to America.”. We are immediately in love with Ariel, horribly, hard in love. She is such a representation of everything precious and precocious in children, that not-quite-describable characteristic- that makes you want to kiss them and squish them… that makes us want to protect her from everything, and at the same time, lift her up high to see the world, just to watch her reaction and live a little, through it.

Can you tell that I loved this character?

Her older sister, Christy, is equally beautiful, equally enchanting, but in a quieter manner. Ariel is bubbles bouncing off the surface of the world, popping in loud delight. Christy is a sweet melody winding its way softly, unobtrusively, through experiences, as she records everything on her beloved camcorder. It seems that she spends more time behind the camera than facing the world. It is her odd, modern-day security blanket.

A struggling actor father, Johnny, and a gentle, wise mother, Sarah, are both doing the best they can for their children while not-quite dealing with the recent loss of their son, Frankie, who died of a brain tumor back in Ireland. They seem foolishly optimistic, and yet we are enchanted. They seem gullible and naïve, and yet they survive, no, thrive, in their harsh surroundings. They have come to New York City to escape, to start fresh, and their dreams are equally hopeful and frightening as we the veiwers cringe and expect the worst for this family at every turn.

Yet the fears don’t quite materialize. The ugly old tenement building they move into, which we expect to be filled with dangerous druggies and gun-weilding maniacs, turns out to be a fairly tame place, with other families, and seemingly harmless eccentrics filling the hallways. The transformation of their apartment, from a disgusting, pigeon habitat into a colorfully-painted, lovely home lays the path for the rest of this movie… the underlying theme, that change can happen, that beauty can be found, that there is hope, after all. We gasp as the parents allow the children to run through the building alone on Halloween, again, expecting the worst when they pound on the door (Marked KEEP AWAY) of the angry, mysterious Mateo, an artist who appears nothing other than crazy and furious with the world. Again, we are surprised -or perhaps not… maybe we’ve begun to see that this is a fairytale on screen by now- when Mateo turns out to be a gentle giant, sweetness and insight practically overflowing from him as he spouts little African-accented words of wisdom to the family he quickly falls in love with.

The family struggles, they face overwhelming difficulties, especially when Sarah discovers that she is pregnant, and the doctor advises her not to have it, because, as he implies, her health is shaky and if the baby doesn’t die, she might instead. They are poor, they are trying to adjust to the strangeness of their new home, and yet they are the epitome of what everyone wishes for in a family…close, loving, secure in their identity as a whole, rather than separate individuals. The affection they share is plain to see, and just try to watch this without getting damp-eyed in a few places!

I had no idea what I was in for when I popped this one into the DVD. I knew nothing about it, and I was unprepared for the sweet, simple story that unwound in front of me. As I said, this is a modern day fairytale, the many-times-told American Dream story, with a handful of heroes … bold little Ariel, sweet Christy, struggling Johnny, gentle Sarah, and wise Mateo. I was totally enchanted and I’m not afraid to say so.

If you’re looking for a no-holds-barred look at immigration, a real-life drama with no magic sprinkled on top, this one’s not for you. But if, on the other hand, you’d like to escape for a couple hours, to laugh and cry and let yourself believe in dreams for a little while, then get your popcorn and some Kleenex, and press “play” on this movie.

I give it 4 &s…

& Ariel!

& Christy!

& Mateo!

& I’ve forgotten how nice it is to watch a happy story sprinkled with tears, instead of the other way around


I’m off for the weekend and won’t have a blog Sunday tomorrow, but I promise to be back on track by next week!

3 Comments:

Blogger Portnoy said...

yeah i loved this film. i walked out of the theatre bewildered and in tears. (covered up by sunglasses) i called my wife and told her we had to see it. we saw it the next day. same emotions.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Orhan Kahn said...

You truly enjoyed this film, thats nice to see. Might have to check it out myself.

12:53 AM  
Blogger Meowkaat said...

I think it's safe to say that I luv-luv-luvvvved this movie. Good thing I didn't watch it on a cynical, angry day or I might have hated it with equal intensity.

7:24 AM  

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