In America


Directed by: Jim Sheridan
Written by:Jim Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridan
Starring: Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger, Djimon Hounsou
Released: January 22, 2004
Grade: A-

It’s been a week since I’ve seen In America (I’m behind with my reviews) but there’s something enchanting about this film that keeps it in the forefront of my mind.  Virtually every film (both big and small) follows a familiar “three act” structure.  That is to say, we are introduced to the characters in the first act, the story is developed in the second act, and then things are wrapped up in the third and final act.  What surprised me about In America was that this structure couldn’t be found.  We only truly learn about the characters deep into the story and the film’s finish isn’t easy to anticipate.

The man responsible for this screenplay knows a thing or two about filmmaking.  Irish director Jim Sheridan’s has touched audiences before with his dramas My Left Foot and In The Name Of The Father.  As many have pointed out, In America is Sheridan’s “most personal” film to date as it is heavily based on his own life.  He co-wrote the script with his two daughters, Naomi and Kirsten, and all three were rewarded last Tuesday with an Oscar nomination in the original screenplay category.

The film centres on an Irish family immigrating to America in search of a new and better life.  Johnny (Considine) is struggling to find work as an actor forcing Sarah (Morton) to get a job at a small café to help pay the bills.  Their two daughters Christy and Ariel are excited about the fresh start and the change in scenery is helping heal recent wounds.  There was a once a son in the family but he passed away back in Ireland and things haven’t been the same since.

These dramas may sound depressing but the story is beautifully uplifting in that it is told from the point of view of Christy and Ariel.  Like kids of their age, they’re fascinated by even the smallest matter and life seems so much better their innocent eyes.  Christy and Ariel make friends with an African-America resident in the rundown apartment block and whilst I can’t go into too much more detail here (it’s a key part of the plot), the way his “troubles” are expressed and visualised is truly unique.

Super performances are turned in from sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger as the two children.  It’s hard to find good young actors so credit to Jim Sheridan for finding them.  The remaining three stars are largely unheralded by Hollywood standards but Paddy Considine (24 Hour Party People), Samantha Morton (Minority Report) and Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator) are in touch with Sheridan’s intentions and deliver appropriately poignant performances.  As a footnote, both Morton and Hounsou have received deserved Oscar nominations this year for their roles.

Rated PG, In America is an ideal film for any audience.  Kids will be entertained and adults touched by the story being told.  There’s a little “magic” in the air.