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

New Movies

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Advertisement
Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

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.