In America

In America


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

At the centre of this wondrous film is the death of a two-year-old child. It is not so much that Frankie haunts the family as his memory touches them and the pain of it howls in the silence of their hearts.

They come to America to begin again. It is the early Eighties and they arrive in New York with Do You Believe In Magic playing on the radio. The children, Christy and Aerial, are in awe. They are from Ireland and they embrace Manhattan, strange and exotic as it is. Even the apartment, in what is called The Drug House in Hell's Kitchen, is seen as an adventure.

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Johnny tries to find work as an actor. Sarah gets a job as a waitress. The girls go to Catholic school. Money is tight, but they are together, and at this point, when six-year-old Aerial says, "I miss things, there's no-one to play with, no-one to tell my secrets to," sentiment begins to well up in the body of the script.

Jim Sheridan shoots the film like a documentary. The scenes in the slum quarters are harsh and dark. The house, itself, has the look of antique degradation. Sarah makes the apartment into a magic place, which feels entirely right. The girls respond to the city without fear. Christy is the realist. She's 10. "It was like we were in another planet," she says.

The marriage is tested by the heat of a New York summer and Johnny's failure to find work. He takes a job as a taxi driver. The girls make friends with "the screaming man", a black artist who refuses contact with the world, enraged by life, and it changes them.

This is a beautiful, enriching film that speaks more eloquently about grief and hope and love than you would think possible. The performances of Samantha Morton and Paddy Considine are strong and united. Sarah and Emma Bolger, as the sisters, have an innocence and integrity that is remarkable. The ever impressive Djimon Hounsou, as the artist, has a forbidding presence.

Sheridan (My Left Foot, In The Name Of The Father) has never made anything as personal as this. The style is different, too, as if memories of Frankie have brought him back to the roots of his being. He shows the courage to be truthful.

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2003
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A family of Irish immigrants tries to find their feet in New York.
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Director: Jim Sheridan

Writer: Jim Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridan

Starring: Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger, Djimon Hounsou, Ciaran Cronin, Juan Hernandez, Jason Salkey, Rene Millan, Merrina Millsapp

Year: 2002

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Ireland/UK


EIFF 2003

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