In America

In America (1)

Sometimes a film touches me on such a personal level that I don’t trust myself to write an objective review. In America is one of precious few that has such an effect. Director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father) wields the magical art of storytelling with an emotional dexterity that underscores his own personal struggles, reminiscent of the masters in other mediums: Rembrandt painting against the backdrop of poverty, John Milton putting faceless words to an invisible page.

The movie follows a year in the life of two little Irish girls and their parents who are trying to make a new life in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, and forget the tragedies of their past. Ariel, the youngest, immediately falls in love with America and eagerly greets border guards and homeless alike. Together with her older, quieter sister Christy, she carries the burden of holding their small family together with a strength their parents are incapable of providing.

In America (2)

Over time each character realizes that America is no easier than Ireland, and their struggles followed them to their new home. But their hope is renewed with the acquaintance of Mateo, the ‘man who yells’ in the apartment just down the stairs. He reminds them of the beauty in life and the magic that surrounds them. With Ariel’s passion and Christy’s conscience, he brings a new hope to the long-lost heart of their parents, even as the family’s situation goes from bad to worse.

Told through the lens of Christy’s video camera, this is a story of change and acceptance, of determination, and of faith. It evokes God’s mandate to live with the heart of a child, which has a resilience that we seem to lose the older we become.

In America (3)

Though the story captivates me with every viewing, the technical merits of In America speak for themselves. The screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award and the actors breathe life into every single scene — an incredible feat, when the lead roles are two real-life sisters (Emma and Sarah Bolger) under the age of 12. As the story goes, the part of Ariel was cast first, and Emma refused to accept it unless her older sister was given the other part.

This is Jim Sheridan’s crowning achievement as a film director, and one of my top 10 favorite films. The next time you look for something to rent, go a little deeper than the standard Hollywood fare and give yourself a reminder of what life is like through a child’s eyes.

My Rating: ★★★★★

(View the Movie Trailer)

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One Response to “In America”

  1. Sean C Says:
    June 11th, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Agreed. Great review. Fantastic movie. I was belaboring seeing this film until I really ran out of options, however, it’s an incredible story. An indie movie worth it’s salt. Thanks for recommending it to me.