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In America (2002)

  Directed by: Jim Sheridan
Written by: Jim Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan
Starring: Emma Bolger, Sarah Bolger, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou, Samantha Morton
Links: In America on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on Video
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 7.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Irish-ness" - a review by em_fiction

An Irish family immigrate to New York, America, in search of a renewed life after the tragic loss of one of their children. They are a normal, closeknit family: Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (Samantha Morton) are the loving and caring parents of the introverted Christy (Sarah Bolger), and her younger, much louder sister Ariel (Emma Bolger); all this established firmly in the opening frames. While Johnny, an aspiring actor, is out auditioning for Broadway, Sarah is making ends meet by working at a local ice-cream parlour, and the kids, although trying to fit in at their new Catholic school, still stick to one another for company.

Downstairs from their shabby, delapidated apartment lives "the man who screams" as he has been labelled, due to frequent his outbursts of rage. While trick-or-treating, the kids defy all warnings and knock persistantly at his door, and they discover that behind it lives Mateo (Djimon Hounsou), a lonesome and rather unstable Nigerian artist. Strangely enough, for the first time since forever, he decides to show some affection, and not long after develops a close friendship with the Irish family.

In America was a good film, a decent film, but I'm so sure whether or not it actually lives up to its hype (i.e. Oscar nominations, a place in the IMDb Top 250, etc.). The film starts off incredibly well — by start, I mean roughly the first half. The way in which it depicts this family ducking and weaving through one problem after the next is done through well-wrought emotive filmmaking; overly-sentimental yet incredibly seductive — the scene at the carnival being a great example of this. In an overall sense, we're actually made to care about this family.

Then the film throws in Mateo, and fair enough, the emotional charge still holds. If anything, it even gets a little stronger. But does the interest? See, this is where the film sort of went a little shaky. The first half was so full-on with its intense foreshadowing and trying to steal the audience's hearts that it wasn't really left with much else to offer in the second half, so things just wore off. It was a pity as well, because two major things happen towards the end that I could easily tell were meant to be the pinnacle of the film's emotional make-up, but to put it quite simply, I just didn't find it that powerful.

Despite all that, the positives of this film still outweigh the negatives. The performances are quite fantastic; I'm not so sure whether they're Oscar-worthy, as the Academy saw it (Morton and Hounsou in particular), but they were certainly very competent. The standout performances definitely belong to the girls. So puckish yet so convincingly portrayed, both real life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger create this crystal clear contrast between the two girls; Christy being this secluded, introverted, camcorder-holding heroine while her younger sister, Ariel, is much more excited, energetic and mischievous.

Look — just because it didn't jerk any of my tears doesn't necessarily make it a sign for you to go watch it without a Kleenex. I could see why it should've made me teary, but I just couldn't give that kind of emotional response. I still believe that it's a lovely film, I'm just disappointed that it didn't work for me.

em_fiction gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 5 Jul 2004

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