Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring||Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou, Emma Bolger, Sarah Bolger|
|Producer||Arthur Lappin, Jim Sheridan|
Does God really exist? How can we know? If God made everything, who made God? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
Where can I find HOPE for living? GO…
Opening your front door to a familiar friend is like going to see “In America”, which we welcome in because we can trust it, and believe it only has good intentions for us. Instead of taking hold of it and judging its simplicity, it is hard to resist how it takes hold of us, blesses us, and eventually rests in us like a warm cup of tea enjoyed in the presence of good company.
This film does not shy away from veraciously depicting life struggles (terminal illnesses, pregnancy complications, death), but in the end these matters assist in making the film all the more honest. It does not just hand us a series of happy moments, but allows us to feel the gravity of more severe emotions and hardships so it can be a sincerely uplifting film.
Director-Writer-Producer Jim Sheridan (“Bloody Sunday,” “In the Name of the Father,” “The Boxer”) has constructed a film not only with his own family (Naomi and Kirsten Sheridan), but has also created it based directly on his own poor Irish family. Making this autobiographical story even more personal is the dedication at the end to the “memory of Frankie Sheridan.” “Frankie” is the name of the son’s character whose death the family in this story is struggling to get past.
The story begins with an immigrant Irish family moving to New York City where the dad, Johnny (Paddy Considine), plans on pursuing an acting career. Samantha Morton (Oscar nominee for Sweet and Lowdown) portrays an array of complexities as the mother, and the two young girls Christy (Sarah Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger) simply steal our hearts and give us the purest performances of the show.
To note some more intense moments, there is a sequence which involves the main couple making love (some nudity), juxtaposed with Mateo (Djimon Hounsou), a fellow tenant, filled with angst and painting in his apartment, and a lightning storm. (Beyond effects, there is meaning to be discovered in this sequence.) Additionally, the language is exceptionally clean, but there is one moment where our protagonist is at the end of himself, and, in a moment of anger, drops the “f” bomb.
Although we could only be frightened by our introduction to Mateo (Djimon Hounsou), it is hard not to recall Hounsou’s performance from Amistad and feel a definite liking towards him. Of course, we are initially set up to be afraid of him here, but if you do sense some sympathy, it will not be disappointed.
Probably the strongest theme this film deals with is the idea of believing. The family is Catholic, but since the death of their son, the dad, Johnny, has shut off his belief in God. There is a moment when Johnny is tucking his girls into bed and they expect him to kneel and pray with them like Sarah, their mother. But even for his own daughters, he refuses.
Also woven into this narrative is the issue of letting go of the past. From the very beginning, we discover that this family has lost a child, “Frankie,” and are now embarking on a new life in America. This struggle, combined with Johnny’s belief in God, build together and find a kind of satisfying resolve by the end.
“In America” is about a family and for a family. It is honest, but not always easy. If anyone has struggled like this family has, seeing this film can be very heartening.
Violence: Minor | Profanity: Moderate | Sex/Nudity: Moderate
Editor’s note: Critic Michael Medved published an enthusiastic review of this film. He says it “not only deserves consideration as “The Best Film of 2003” but also qualifies as one of the finest pro-life, pro-family movies ever made.”