In America

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Paddy Considine as Johnny
Samantha Morton as Sarah
Sarah Bolger as Christy
Emma Bolger as Ariel
Djimon Hounsou as Mateo
Ciaran Cronin as Frankie
Juan Hernandez as Papo
Nye Heron as Blind Man
Jason Salkey as Tony
Rene Millan as Steve

Special Features:
Commentary by Director Jim Sheridan

9 Deleted Scenes with Commentary

“Making-Of” Featurette

Alternate Ending

Other Info:
Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 105 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was written by director Jim Sheridan and his daughters Naomi and Kirsten.

After the tragic death of their young son, Johnny and Sarah move from Ireland to New York City to start a new life. Along with them are 10 year old daughter Christy and the young, talkative Ariel. They enter America as tourists, but they intend to find work and live there permanently. The only place they can find housing is in a slum in Hell’s Kitchen. While Johnny tries to get a job on Broadway as an actor, Sarah works at a nearby diner.

Despite their financial and emotional hardships, the two young girls remain positive and upbeat about living in America. They eventually even make friends with an angry young artist living in their building named Mateo. Little do they realize that they will all form a family bond that will help them through their darkest hours.

In America is rated PG-13 for some sexuality, drug references, brief violence and language.

The Movie:
I had heard a lot about In America, but I knew nothing about it. After viewing it I found it to be a charming tale about a family and the challenges it faces. While many people focus on how the movie discusses reaching for the American Dream, I found the big theme of the story to be how the death of a child impacts a family and how they cope with it. As a parent, I identified with many of the moments the family shared in the film. My kids pick on me the way Christy and Ariel pick on their father. I’ve at times worried about how to support my kids as well (but never to the extent that Christy and Johnny do). When Johnny gets frustrated with an air conditioner he attempts to install, I had flashbacks to similar misadventures of my own. So because I identified so much with this family, I felt more sympathy for them when they deal with the death of one child and the birth of another.

This movie is very honest in its portrayal of family life and what it would be like moving to Hell’s Kitchen. While the family does face crime, they never deal with it to the extent that people usually do in the movies. And while the family does have tough times, they have more positive experiences that are genuine. They have little victories here and there which make it seem more real. This is also true when the family deals with their guilt about the death of “Frankie”. Every member of the family seems to blame themselves for his death and the story is about them all overcoming this.

The acting in the film is excellent. The children are played by Sarah and Emma Bolger and they are first rate. It probably helped that they were real life sisters and it made their interaction more genuine. The father played by Paddy Considine is also great. He portrays the joy and rage of this man in a convincing way. He’s the everyman and is probably identifiable to young fathers everywhere. He is supported by Samantha Morton who plays the loving mother and wife. She, too, is believable in her role. Finally, Djimon Hounsou is impressive as Mateo. Whether he’s raging in his apartment or playing with the girls, you totally buy his performance. They are good at making you believe this Irish family and African immigrant could share family bonds.

Overall, this movie could have been a dark, depressing tale. Instead it is an uplifting commentary on family and what it is like trying to establish roots in America. It ends up being a feel-good movie despite the hardships they go through.

The Extras:
Besides including both widescreen and fullscreen versions of the movie on this DVD, there are a number of extras included:

Commentary by Director Jim Sheridan – Until I heard this commentary, I didn’t realize just how much of this story was autobiographical for Sheridan. Most of the key events in the film really happened to him and his daughters. Sheridan reminisces about the real events and people everything was based on. He also displays his Irish sense of humor and scrappiness as he discusses critical reaction to the film. Overall it’s an entertaining and informative commentary.

9 Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending with Commentary – A fair number of the deleted scenes are devoted to the junkie that assaults Johnny late in the film. You learn more about his past and see more of him developing a relationship with Johnny. It makes his attacking him all the more shocking. There’s also an alternate version of that attack scene. In it, Johnny almost kills him and he’s only saved when his girlfriend comes in and breaks them up. It gives the movie a much more intense feel and makes Johnny a little darker. It was probably better that it was modified. A couple of other deleted scenes feature more of Mateo and give a couple of details about his background. Finally, there’s not much more to the alternate ending other than the way it was edited. All of these scenes can be watched with commentary from Jim Sheridan.

“Making-Of” Featurette – This is your standard “making of” featurette. It’s 5 minutes long and shows behind the scenes footage, cast and crew interviews, and more. I found it amusing that the little girl who played Ariel is just as talkative and energetic in real life as her character.

The Bottom Line:
In America is a film well worth checking out for the great acting and family interaction. I think the Academy Award nominations it received were well-deserved.

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