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In America

Starring Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou, Sarah Bolger and Emma Bolger
Screenplay by Jim Sheridan & Kirsten and Naomi Sheridan
Directed by Jim Sheridan

IN SHORT: Second addition to our Best of the Year list. [Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, drug references, brief violence and language. 103 minutes]

A great film delivers characters in a story you can relate to regardless of the situations seen on screen. The stronger the emotions it can evoke, the better. By that simple definition, writer/director Jim Sheridan's In America is a great film. A completely successful film. The story is believable, the characters are likable, the "journey" they take (and anyone who's ever gone to film school knows what that means) works on every level that a good story should. We'll put it this way: we liked the film so much that, a month or so later when another opportunity to pre-screen the film came up, we sat for it again just for the joy of sitting through a film that was that good.

Once upon a time, Jim Sheridan brought his wife and children from Ireland to New York City (a country all to itself) and stayed for less than a decade. Now a successful director, with films including My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father, Sheridan revisits those days with In America, mixing his real life experiences with scattered personal history and the occasional bit of fiction to adjust for the different time frame. Sheridan doesn't get to blow anything up but a life and death story as a subplot works well enough for us.

The key characters of In America are illegal immigrants, Irish, who sneak over the Canadian border as tourists intending to remain in our great land. Johnny (Paddy Considine) wants to be an actor but, since the death of his son, has locked his emotions down tight, which dooms his potential career. Sarah (Samantha Morton) works in an ice cream parlor on hubbie's off hours because, as the film begins, the kidlets are not yet in the school system machinery. Both adults are naive to the ways of the big city and get taken, more often than not, but daughters Christy (Sarah Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger) never go wanting. Ariel considers lemon drops to be magic. Christy shoots video of everything and serves as a voiceover narrator of the story, writing letters to the brother, Frankie, who passed away before the film's timeline begins. His loss, from brain tumor haunts the all but the youngest child (Ariel). It is the reason Johnny can't access his emotions to get work. It is also why his marriage is in great danger of total disintegration.

There isn't much neighborliness in the New York City tenement building that they live in. Simply described, the building is six floors of transvestites and junkies and other unsavory types. There is one door which has the words KEEP AWAY painted on it in big orange letters. Here lives, as titled by the girls, a "man who screams". Come Halloween and the strange rite of American kidlethod called trick or treating, they will discover that the face behind the door is an African immigrant artist named Mateo Kawaami (Djimon Hounsou). The kidlets, who are incredibly adorable, win over the screaming man -- who has no family (that will acknowledge him) of his own -- and a fast friendship is formed.

Sarah has been told that having another child could kill her but one stormy night nature wills out. The baby will be way premature and, without spilling the ensuing events, Johnny will say to Mateo, "I need a miracle." So does Mateo, but that's a story we'll hide due to our "don't spill the Third Act" rules.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to In America, he would have paid . . .


We saw it once and liked it a lot. A couple months later, still remembering the film well, we planted a second time just for the enjoyment of watching. We still liked it a lot.

amazon com link Click to buy films by Jim Sheridan
Click to buy films starring Samantha Morton
Click to buy films starring Djimon Hounsou

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.