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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.62%
Worth A Look42.31%
Average: 17.95%
Pretty Bad: 3.85%
Total Crap: 1.28%

6 reviews, 42 user ratings

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In America
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by MP Bartley

"Consider my heart warmed"
4 stars

Sentimentality is a dirty word in movie making. Any critic of Spielberg in particular will damn him with that one word. Robin Williams can't move without bumping into that particular criticism. And for 90% of the time, I'm with them. Sentimentality is usually sappy, cliched and syrupy, drowning any good points amovie may have. But then sometimes, when it's done well, with a light touch, it's just...right.

'In America' is one of those moments where it's just right. Jim Sheridan's semi-autobiographical story written with his family, details a family of Irish immigrants. Johnny (Paddy Considine) is a wannabe actor, Sarah (Samantha Morton) is looking for a teaching job and daughters Christy and Ariel, (Sarah and Emma Bolger) are as cute as buttons.

After securing accommodation in a hovel/flat in an apartment block more well known for junkies than anything else, they find things in America tough going. They swelter when it's hot and freeze when it's cold. They're constantly pestered for money by the drug addicts and thieves in the building, they're denied credit as they rapidly run out of funds and the only person who'll talk to them without wanting something material in return is Mateo (Djimoun Hounsou), an artist tortured with himself. There's the also the fact that they've lost a child, Franky, back in Ireland that has wounded the family deeply, each member showing grief in a different way.

Obviously, you can guess pretty much how 'In America' is going to turn out. Will true love and family ties win through at the end of the day? Will everything eventually turn out ok? If you need someone to answer these questions for you, you need to see more movies. But what stops 'In America' from being completely predictable, is the ring of authenticity that Sheridan brings to it. Johnny lugging an air conditioning unit down the middle of the road? Really happened. Sheridan is also not scared of painting this picture appropriately black when it needs to be.

It's a very moving portrayal of a couple in crisis as Johnny and Sarah try to cope with the loss of their son. Both however, don't necessarily realise how the other is or is not coping with the trauma. It's a riveting example of a couple deeply in love but also unable to communicate the pain they both feel, leading to bitterness and anger. But Sheridan ensures it never feels maudlin.

Added to that is the fact that money quickly runs out means things do take a turn for the bleakest. This though, makes the uplift seem natural and not manipulative, when it comes. A simple childs game at a fairground becomes one of the most gripping scenes you'll see all year, simply because we're made acutely aware of what's at sake. And when Christy and Ariel turn up at the school Hallowe'en party in their home-made dresses compared to everyone elses bought costume, it's impossible not to feel for them. Who hasn't felt like the poorest kid at school before?

Anchored to this are some great performances. Sarah and Emma Bolger bely their ages with superbly natural performances that never tip into overly cutesy. Hounsou gives a dignified performance that will eventually bring a tear to the eye and Morton adds another impressive portrayal to her CV. But it's Considine who is the bruised and beating heart fo the film. He's an actor that manages to bring a real presence to any role, even a small role such as last years '24 Hour Party People'. But he's excellent as Johnny and really gets across the pain of a man not only having to grieve the loss of his son, but also struggling to cope with the fact that he can't support his family and his daughters are losing sight of who he is. He doesn't want to lose face in front of his family, but that's what precisely is driving them away.

It would be easy to make it a showy performance of a wounded alpha male, but he brings a quiet intensity and sensitivity to it, more often showing more when he says little then when he says a lot. The only time his performance does falter, is when the script falls into the cliche of Johnny squaring up to Mateo because of the interest he's showing in his family. Thankfully, these histronic moments are few and far between as Sheridan is more concerned with showing real people than providing grandstanding platforms for showy actors. And he redeems himself with moments like a fire-escape confession, which if it doesn't have you blubbing like a little girl, then there is no poetry in your soul.

We all know that Sheridan has come througn this ok and gone on to make his mark with films such as 'My Left Foot' so it's probably no surprise that this is an America seen through rose-tinted glasses. Even when Johnny nearly gets robbed, the robber apologises to him. And even in the rising heat fo the summer, or the perfectly formed snowfalls, New York is given a pictoral beauty a far cry from 'Taxi Driver' for example. Possibly a case of Sheridan over-egging the nostalgia? Possibly, but considering the real-life events, forgiveable.

If 'In America' just misses out on the 5 star rating it's because it probably lacks that certain 'something' all great films need. Maybe it's because such a personal, intimate film lacks that broader appeal and scope. But whatever, it doesn't detract from the fact that 'In America' is still great. It left me and two other grown men sniffling and swallowing back lumps in our throats by the end. Sometimes great performances and a little sentimentality are all you need. If it's not quite a 'It's A Wonderful Life' for this new millenium, then it's pretty damn close and near enough.

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originally posted: 11/22/03 04:32:47
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This film is available for download or online viewing at For more in the series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/09/09 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
10/01/08 Annie G Enjoyable movie that puts a different face on illegal immigrants. 3 stars
9/10/07 louciljohann very touching....heart-warming 4 stars
3/29/06 steve castleberry This is a good movie- The only one I`ve ever felt like rating. 5 stars
6/13/05 Steve Newman Awesome - go see 5 stars
5/27/05 Brendan An absolute classic. One of my Top 5! 5 stars
5/25/05 Diana R I thought this movie was great 5 stars
3/09/05 axefell resiliency of the eager-eyed optimist on display 4 stars
8/08/04 Mike McGilvray A touching, sad film well worth my time. 5 stars
7/18/04 scrambled brain it irritated me to no end 2 stars
7/06/04 Joan Cagney Very moving film - struck at my Irish American heritage 4 stars
6/21/04 Joli Darling Jim Sheridan's search for that which is authentic was more than realized in this film. 5 stars
6/01/04 maggie cloying-sacharine--annoying children 2 stars
5/21/04 Gretchen Ross wonderful, simplistic film that portrays the fragility and beauty of innocence 5 stars
5/18/04 Mike Excellent Film 4 stars
5/07/04 Megan It was totally amazing- it touched my heart and Emma and Sarah Bolger are amazing actress'! 5 stars
3/09/04 mouhamadou aw i need to watch a film online 3 stars
3/06/04 Jaco Visser Both character and moviegoer grow together in this master artwork. 5 stars
3/06/04 Helen Bradley A really bad film poor script and lousy acting 1 stars
2/29/04 jimmy two times free of stereo types. deals with the working class honestly. great film. 5 stars
2/20/04 john lovely, great cinematography, acting, goings-on etc. 5 stars
2/07/04 Valerie Cameron 2 Oscar nominations for grownups, but the little girls are the real stars. 4 stars
1/15/04 Kate Wonderful, but anxiety-inducing. I found myself waiting for harm around every corner. 5 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Really great Sheridan drama; Morton is outstanding as the mother. 5 stars
1/13/04 skysusan Great film; worth seeing 5 stars
1/10/04 CharlieDams Haunting, unforgettable. Excellent, believable acting. Photography, sets very good 5 stars
1/05/04 Lewis Menacing Black neighbor, a teddy bear in disguise, pays Irish family's big medical bill 2 stars
12/31/03 ownerofdajoint this movie works well on several levels;don't miss it 5 stars
12/28/03 Eleanor Finally, a functionaling family with all the love, and grief, honesty and trust that we lo 5 stars
12/17/03 Gus Touching movie 5 stars
12/10/03 hans lovely, moving film. Sarah Bolger is brilliant 5 stars
12/01/03 elizabeth beautiful film, oscar worthy in the vein of "My Left Foot" or "In The Name of the Father" 5 stars
11/29/03 Emperor's New Clothes? Nope. Just a Fat, Ugly, Naked, Guy. Personal and touching. Pieces don't quite fit perfectly, but close enough. 4 stars
11/22/03 Law Surprising, moving, compelling - great acting 5 stars
11/19/03 Esther Fabulous! Stunning performances and great music! 5 stars
11/16/03 Hal Underwood A great movie - I knew nothing about it before seeing it. 5 stars
11/07/03 Tony Hocking Thought provoking, with a fantastic debut from the little girls. 5 stars
10/27/03 Norm Engel Absolutely marvellous film. Wonderful acting from the lead characters, touches your hear 5 stars
10/24/03 julie dupree beautiful film 5 stars
10/24/03 Dick Briglia Wonderful Surprising Movie 4 stars
10/21/03 Brad Willard Loved this film 5 stars
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  26-Nov-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 11-May-2004



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