Saturday, February 11, 2006

In America

Title: In America (2002)
Dir: Jim Sheridan
Rating: *** out of 5 stars

Two words for why I rented this movie: Paddy Considine. I can just tell this guy is great (he is so Gary Oldman, it's eerie) and I wish to GOD I could find Dead Man's Shoes. But yeah, it's a good film, although not really my type. I was not bored at all (I expected to be) and everyone's acting is top-notch, including the real-life sisters in the movie who are less like stock child actors and more like real children.

For the uninformed, the movie is about an Irish family who moves to New York City to start life anew. The parents (Considine and Samantha Morton) struggle with the loss of their son Frankie years prior, and the family is practically held together by the main character, 11-year old Christy. The family lives in the city slums with junkies and homeless people, but they make the best of their situation. They become friends with a strange man named Mateo (portrayed by Djimon Hounsou) who is slowly dying, but breathes new life into a family once shattered by tragedy.

Visually, the movie is beautiful. It portrays New York City with a lot of love, even the gritty slums of NYC. It sees the good in everyone, but not in an annoying touchy-feely way. The movie is overwhelmingly about family and love, and thus I find myself not really relating. Nevertheless, I recognize good filmmaking when I see it. For anyone with strong family ties and/or dealing with the loss of a loved one, you should find a real emotional connection with this movie. Some moments are very light and optimistic, while others are tragically real.

In America felt very much like a novel to me. That's a weird thing to say, and I cannot really explain it. I guess it is a compliment because so few films have the feel of a good novel. It is a movie about loss, moving on, and family, as told through the eyes of an 11-year old girl. And you can absolutely feel it from her point of view without Sheridan beating you over the head with narration.

It is not the kind of movie I would watch over and over again, but it is good for at least one viewing. It portrays raw human drama without being too brutal or too sentimental.