Monday, February 23, 2009

DVD: In America

Director: Jim Sheridan
Starring: Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou
Year made: 2002

Not born in the USA

Director Jim Sheridan has carried out a kind of magical balancing act out here – life in one hand, death in the other. In America toys with and ponders these polar opposites while recognising their inseparable nature, pulling at the heartstrings and raising more than a smile in the process...

It is an old-fashioned immigrant’s story set in contemporary New York. There’s no flag waving, as the title might suggest, just a personal journey of one Irish family overcoming the everyday obstacles of starting a new life while recovering from the loss of its youngest member.

Johnny (Considine) is struggling to become an actor. His inability to feel anything since the death of his son casts a shadow over his very existence and his relationship with wife Sarah (Morton). The only things holding them together are their two remaining children, Ariel and Christy (Emma and Sarah Bolger). Living below them in their Hell’s Kitchen apartment is Mateo (Hounsou), a reclusive artist.

His entry into their lives changes things and forces Paddy and Sarah to deal with the living and the now. Teetering on the brink of painful sugar-coated melodrama, the film somehow stays the right side of tasteful thanks to its selfcreated charm, honest emotions and sublime performances by its players. It would take a cold person not to be touched by the finale.

Unfortunately the extras are disproportionate compared to the tears shed. What there is, though, is of a high quality. Sheridan’s commentary is an extremely engaging talk-a-thon as he reminisces about moving to New York and how he went about transferring those experiences to the big screen.

Some of the deleted scenes provide further nice moments with the family but nothing that expands the story as told in the film. It is the short making-of featurette that ties everything up on this disc. Great behind-the-scenes footage is mixed with contributions from the actors and Sheridan’s own two daughters, who co-wrote the script with him.

In America
is a wonderful experience, touched with emotion, that will fill you with sadness then warm you up better than a hot cup of cocoa.

Film: 4 stars
Extras: 2 stars

Special features

• Audio commentary by director Sheridan
• ‘A Personal Journey: The Making Of In America’ featurette (20 mins)
• Ten deleted scenes

If you like this why not try…
It’s A Wonderful Life
Arguably the greatest feelgood film of all time. Tissues at the ready.

This review first appeared in DVD Review #63