Movie Review by Andrea Karen Hammer
This film about a poor Irish family searching for a better life in New York holds power after a second watch more than a decade after its release.
Despite some upsetting scenes in this movie with three Oscar nominations, our group still found “In America” evocative, capturing the pain and pleasure of a family’s unmoored life.
Emotional Turmoil Verging on Explosive Rage
Unsettling interactions in the film, rising from emotional turmoil driven by the death of a child, verge on explosive rage. Compounding this intensity was a fierce but ultimately tender performance by Djimon Hounsou, playing a disturbed and gravely ill neighbor named Mateo.
Some of the shocking scenes in Hell’s Kitchen include the unforgettable Johnny (Paddy Considine) hauling a heavy air-conditioner up countless flights of steps in a dilapidated apartment building. Rising above the decrepit neighborhood in backdrop shots, glittering skyline shots of New York capture the city’s magic as a reflection of this Irish family‘s own double-edged existence.
Deeply Moving, “Old Soul” Performances
“In America” is a tour de force as each actor delivers a deeply moving performance. Samantha Morton, as Sarah, leads the talented ensemble in wordlessly conveying unfiltered emotions in her eyes and face. The two little girls, played by Sarah Bolger (Christy) and Emma Bolger (Ariel), were remarkable as wise old souls capable of seeing and understanding painful adult issues with clear eyes.
Christy’s constant use of a camcorder produces realistic, rough-edged scenes with a sense of immediacy. Through her unclouded narration, we follow parallel perceptions of the family’s sometimes blistering but always loving exchanges.
As “In America” ultimately reveals Christy’s ability to comfort her younger sister, mother and father, we marvel at this child’s wisdom beyond her years. Her instrumental role in helping a troubled family heal and others’ extraordinary strength to endure unimaginable pain remain indelible images in this movie, which stirs emotions at the core.
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