In America

(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

      This really is a sweet movie.  I was a bit leery about it when I saw the trailers. Some movies can be too heartwarming even for me. But In America works.  The main reason is that the story is largely autobiographical and written from the heart.  The screenplay was written by the director, Jim Sheridan, and his daughters, Naomi and Kirsten.  The story of In America is an amalgam of Sheridan's childhood, during which his young brother died, and his daughters' childhood, during which they moved to NY City. In the movie, an actor (Paddy Considine), his wife (Samantha Morton) and their young daughters (Emma & Sarah Bolger) emmigrate from Ireland and settle in a not-so-nice part of New York City.  The whole family is dealing with the recent loss of their third child.  On top of this trauma, they must deal with Considine's inability to get work and their lack of money to live on.  While life in the big city is hard for the parents, it is mostly fun for the kids.

    Sheridan has directed only 5 films each of which deal with some aspect of Irish life, My Left Foot, The Field, In the Name of the Father, The Boxer, and In America.  They are all good.  In America is only Sheridan's second movie that doesn't star Daniel Day Lewis. All of Sheridan's movies tell the stories of working-class Irish families.  Only In the Name of the Father, which is about the IRA, deals with a plot much larger than typical family problems. In America fits right into the Sheridan Oeuvre.  It concentrates completely on this family of four and their struggles. The story is seen mostly through the eyes of the two daughters, played by real life sisters, Emily and Sarah Bolger. The girls steal every scene that they are in. They are amazing and are the main reason that In America is as good as it is.  The rest of the small cast is good too. Samantha Morton stands out as usual.  She is mostly known for appearing in Indie films like Sweet and Lowdown, and Jesus's Son, but she broke into the mainstream last year as the precog in Minority Report. The only major non-family character in In America, is Djimon Hounsou, playing an AIDS-stricken artist neighbor who befriends the girls. He had a memorable role in Gladiator and is good again here. Since In America seems to be set in 1982 (the family goes to see E.T. at the movies), Hounsou must be AIDS patient zero.

    Anyway, what can I say? I was getting pretty weepy by the end of In America.  It's worth seeing just for the performances of the Bolger sisters. I guess they weren't even acting. They were just living the story.  In America is rated PG-13 but this is good movie to go to with the family.