In America

"Good"

In America Review


In order to embrace the more fableistic elements of "In America," director Jim Sheridan's fond semi-autobiographical parable about a contemporary family of Irish illegals trying to make good in dilapidated, drug-plagued Hell's Kitchen, it may be necessary to remind yourself that this grown-up film is narrated from a child's point of view.

This will make it possible, for example, not to roll your eyes at the use of The Lovin' Spoonful song "Do You Believe In Magic" over a montage of Manhattan sights reflecting in a car window, behind which are the wide eyes of two excited little girls (sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger) and their the desperate but hopeful parents (Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton).

Remembering that sweet, philosophical 11-year-old Christy (Sarah Bolger) is curious about everything in her new world helps you understand why Sheridan makes her dangerous neighborhood of transvestites, addicts and prostitutes feel more like a non-threatening carnival of curios to be collected through her omnipresent camcorder.

"In America" is a rose-colored sepia toning of the family's hard-knocked life in a rat-infested flat, in a derelict apartment building with a broken lift and a scary neighbor with a predilection for primal screams. But the film has the warmth of the director's passion, and its innocent perspective comes courtesy of a reliable source -- the screenplay was co-written by Sheridan's own now-grown daughters, Naomi and Kristen.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Bolger girls are melodious, magnetic, natural actresses who endear themselves to a viewer so quickly and completely that you may find that questioning their ingenuous outlook on the world comes largely from worrying about their survival in it.

The director offers up many subconscious reminders of the movie's point-of-view (low-angle cinematography, often finding yourself shuffled off to an ice cream shop when tension (or desire) strikes the parents. But underlying problems are always present, and Sheridan fuels the film's emotional life with the family's struggles, not the least of which is that all of them are heartbreakingly haunted, to varying degrees, by an unspoken void left by the accidental death of the girls' brother -- an event that takes place before this story but casts a long shadow.

Paddy Considine ("Last Resort," "A Room for Romeo Brass") brings an absorbing rawness to the careworn father, who does everything he can to hide how dead his soul has felt since losing his son. The spellbinding yet subtle Samantha Morton ("Morvern Callar," "Minority Report," "Sweet & Lowdown") brings a unique weight and dimension to her character that is rarely seen in movie moms -- a true sense of how motherhood is a part of every breath she takes, even when she's struck with bouts of melancholy. Interestingly, it's these two -- not the children -- who are the key to remembering that Sheridan shows us a sanguine version of hardship, because as good parents they do all they can not to burden their daughters with real-world plight.

But the movie's most pivotal role goes to Djimon Hounsou ("Amistad," "Gladiator"), who demonstrates his under-appreciated range as the bellowing neighbor, a terminally ill African immigrant and volatile surrealist painter who begins the film as a boogieman figure but soon becomes the girls' best friend and the family's guardian angel.

Their many dilemmas are wrapped up in a far too neat and overly symbolic package as Sheridan draws his story to a close. But "In America" is after all a fable -- and one that packs an emotional wallop in its watershed finale. With one more self-reminder that the movie is from the perspective of an astute but sheltered child, even the last reel's lucky contrivance of alleviation and heartwarming optimism makes a certain kind of sense.



In America

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Friday 31st October 2003

Box Office USA: $15.3M

Budget: $15 thousand

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 154 Rotten: 19

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.