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In America (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Jim Sheridan audio commentary; 10 deleted scenes; Featurette: 'A Personal Journey: The Making Of In America'.

DIRECTOR, Jim Sheridan, has been responsible for some truly great films during his 13-year career, including In The Name of the Father and My Left Foot, but In America, his latest, has to rate as his most personal and deeply affecting work to date.

A partly autobiographical tale about an Irish family who travel to America in search of a new beginning, the movie is a devastatingly heartfelt piece which has to rate as one of the most emotionally engaging experiences of the year.

The family in question is comprised of Samantha Morton’s Sarah, her husband, Johnny (Paddy Considine), and their two daughters, Christy and Ariel (played by real-life sisters, Sarah and Emma Bolger), while America represents the land of opportunity and a chance to escape the sadness of their past, caused by the death of their youngest child, from a brain tumour.

Yet while New York, at first, represents a huge adventure, and some light relief, the real resolution of their problems lies much closer to home, and events conspire to force them to look within for their salvation.

Sheridan’s movie could so easily have become a tedious and heavy-handed tear-jerker that shamelessly exploits viewers’ emotions, yet its strength lies in its ability to refrain from doing so.

It is sentimental, but never mawkish, providing a family whose journey towards happiness is as funny, at times, as it can be sad.

And in terms of performances, Sheridan has struck gold, with every one of the principles providing a character viewers can genuinely embrace and root for, such is the honesty of their situation.

In America doesn’t have to rely on show-stopping set pieces, or showy monologues, to make its mark, but earns your tears in a quietly effective way, turning the most routine sequences - such as Johnny’s dash to find an air conditioning unit in the height of Summer, or his attempts to win at a fairground - into the most memorably heartbreaking, or uplifting, scenes of the year.

Morton is as brilliant as we have come to expect, but it is the lesser known stars, and Considine, in particular, who make the biggest impression, virtually taking your breath away with the power of their work.

Considine’s struggling actor, whose despair over the death of his son has suppressed his ability to feel anything, is an under-stated tour-de-force, guaranteed to have you weeping tears of joy at the resolution of his journey, while the Bolger sisters are impossibly sweet, but completely adorable, especially during the more personal insights into how they are feeling.

Their relationship with Djimon Hounsou’s artist and neighbour provides the catalyst for the family’s soul-searching and is brilliantly observed, with Hounsou, as well, deserving credit for the way in which he switches from an intimidating, even threatening, presence, to an almost mystical figure, who adds some much-needed magic to the family’s lives.

New York, too, is convincingly portrayed as both a place to be marvelled by, and wary of, with the various do-gooders and low-lives that populate the family’s new community serving to create a suitably realistic feel throughout.

In America bristles with a vibrancy reserved for only the best types of movies, yet goes about its business with a quietly assured confidence that is frequently found missing from the mainstream. It is, quite simply, a breathtaking achievement, and one which I would urge you not to miss.

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