This family has a touch of the grace that allows them to appreciate their new life in spite of their surroundings.

IN AMERICA

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis


                The Two River Film Festival of Red Bank, New Jersey opened its first year with a grand surprise:   the world premiere of Jim Sheridan’s “In America,” a movie made on an indie budget and set inside the heart of a small Irish family with all the humor and pain that comes with poverty and love.  The intensity of Sheridan’s film is deepened by the fact that it is strongly autobiographical, written by him with his daughters Naomi and Kirsten.  Sheridan’s other films – My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, and The Boxer – are among the best of a fine generation of Irish films. 

While the success of the movie is ensured by the adult performances of  Samantha Morton as Sarah, Paddy Considine as Johnny, and Djimon Hounsou as Mateo, it is lifted far beyond what it might have been by two real-life sisters Emma and Sarah Bolger who play Ariel and Christy. Samantha Morton, whose facial expressions are subtle and revealing, is excellent as the mother who never complains.   Djimon Hounsou’s Mateo is a gentle giant ready to let the love of a family into his life.  Paddy Considine plays Johnny as the mercurial Irishman sliding quickly from pathos to the high spirits of his dreams.   

The movie opens with a fine scene at the Canadian border, the final step in this family’s decision to move to New York City where Johnny can try to carve an acting career out his love for the profession.  Rejected repeatedly at auditions, Johnny is told his acting comes from the head, not the heart.  His heart closed down when his young son Franky died at the age of two.  With the help of Sarah and their new friend Mateo, Johnny begins to gain the perspective he needs to rebuild his life. 

Meanwhile Sarah deals with making a home of their three story walk-up loft in a dilapidated building that is a home for junkies.  This family has a touch of the grace that allows them to appreciate their new life in spite of their surroundings.  Sarah sees beauty even in the most ragged curtain.

Ariel and Christy.  If you don’t believe that there is still magic in crossing into America, miracle in approaching Manhattan underneath the water in a tube, hilarity in driving through Times Square, then it’s time to watch these two girls throw up their arms to hug the excitement close.  You may feel, as I did, that you are seeing it all for the first time.

The wonderful thing about Ariel is that at seven she is full of joy in an imperfect world.  She treats all people as if they are good, just waiting to be enlisted in her adventure.  The Bolger sisters, who play these girls, show not one whit of artifice in their roles.  No one can convince me they didn’t make that trip from Canada to the American dream. 


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