Some of the finest cinematic gems that have arrived in America from the Emerald Isle over the past 15 years have come from writer/producer/director Jim Sheridan. His debut film, “My Left Foot,” won Oscars for actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker. Some of his other works, such as “The Field,” “In The Name Of The Father,” and “The Boxer,” all garnered Oscar or Golden Globe nominations. And all of these films were made in Ireland after Sheridan had emigrated to the U.S. Now he has a new film, his first venture that was made “In America,” and this also happens to be the title of the movie.
“In America,” Johnny and Sarah are a young Irish couple who come to the U.S. searching for a new beginning while dealing with a personal tragedy. They enter the country via Canada in a beat-up old station wagon with their two young daughters, Christy and Ariel, in tow. They have little money, and they end up living in a run-down tenement in New York City inhabited by junkies, transvestites, and other odd characters. Johnny is a struggling actor who goes to auditions during the day while driving a cab at night, and Sarah finds work in a nearby ice cream shop. They struggle to make ends meet, Sarah becomes pregnant, and Johnny is in denial about the loss of their son Frankie. Yet Johnny and Sarah are abetted by the friendship of an unlikely neighbor, and they are propelled forward through difficult times, and, in an unusual setting, by the love of their spirited daughters and their wide-eyed innocence.
There are wonderful performances “In America” by Paddy Considine as Johnny, Samantha Morton as Sarah, and Djimon Hounsou as the mysterious neighbor Mateo. But the real scene-stealers are the real-life sisters, Sarah and Emma Bolger, who play the young girls. This film is also darling little Emma’s debut as an actor.
“In America” is about a family struggling to find its soul in a new land, and it is loosely based on Jim Sheridan’s own personal experiences. He came to New York from Ireland as a struggling actor in 1981 with his wife and two daughters, yet it was his brother Frankie, not his son, who died as a child. And many of the scenes in the movie were based directly on true events. Besides producing and directing, Sheridan also co-wrote the screenplay with two of his daughters, Naomi and Kirsten Sheridan.
It’s that time of year for holiday and action/adventure blockbuster flicks to be invading your local octaplex, and without marquee names in the cast this touching film about love, loss and rediscovery may not be that easy to find. But if you want to take your real-life family to a film based on real-life family experiences, you will have to search out “In America.”
© 2003 - Larry Carlin - Air Date: 11/26/03
Ireland - 2003