You go to America with a dream. To start over. To put the past behind you. But while you might be through with the past, the past may not be through with you. Johnny and Sarah Sullivan (Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton) are still haunted by the loss of their son Frankie when they leave Ireland for a new life in New York with their daughters Christy and Ariel (Sarah and Emma Bolger).
They go through hard times, experiencing poverty, a heat wave, the difficulty of winning an amusement park E.T. doll, a problematic pregnancy… Living in a decrepit tenement populated by junkies and transvestites is not quite the dream they had in mind, but through the children’s eyes it’s not so bad. In fact, in this odd, sometimes rough city, they can see happiness, magic… A future. And then there’s neighbor Mateo (Djimon Hounsou), “the man who screams”, a dying artist who scares them at first but unexpectedly brings hope back into their lives.
“In America” is the latest from director Jim Sheridan, who wrote the screenplay with his own two daughters Naomi and Kirsten based on their personal history. You can feel in every frame how close to his heart the material is. It’s not an extraordinary tale in itself, immigrants dealing with a new environment and “coming of age”, together. Yet it’s infused with so much warmth, humanity and beauty that it becomes like a unique, fragile snowflake of a movie.
I bawled like a little Irish girl all through the end credits, I’m not sure why exactly… Maybe it was a release after the emotional overload of watching the film, or that great song (written by Bono, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer and sung by Andrea Corr) which sums it all up so well, Time Enough for Tears…
“In America” is brilliantly crafted, with gorgeous cinematography and score music that heighten the magical realism of the story even more, but ultimately it comes down to the characters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing quite like a movie with characters you fall in love with, characters you actually miss when the lights go up. The Sullivans and Mateo are such characters. I love them, be it because of how wonderfully written they are or of how amazing all the actors are. My heart was with them all through the film and now still, hours later.