Web exclusive: Present-day Irish immigrants come together "In America"

In America

PG-13, 100 m Starring Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton Directed by Jim Sheridan Release Date: Nov. 26

3 / 4 Stars

"In America" is an ideal family holiday flick, depicting the tragic, yet magical and comical experience of an Irish immigrant family coming together and starting over in the all-too-real streets of modern Manhattan. It is a typical, yet touching and highly individualized film that shows how the terrible and the miraculous can co-exist.

The story reflects the personal experience of writer and director Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot," "In the Name of the Father").

The family, Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (Samantha Morton) and their two young daughters Christy (Sarah Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger), arrive at their new home: a chaotic and dilapidated New York tenement. The family struggles with money and with letting go of their past, particularly trying to forget the death of their third family member, baby Frankie.

On Halloween night, Christy and Ariel befriend their reclusive neighbor, Mateo (Djimon Hounsou), who becomes the family's ally in a time of crisis.

Many of the events that occur in the movie happened to Sheridan, like losing money trying to win an amusement park doll for his daughters. Also, Sheridan merged characteristics of different family members and interesting New Yorkers he knew when creating the characters for his film.

The characters' personalities seem well-developed, though at times the overdone cuteness of Ariel and the passivity of Sarah can be tiresome. Perhaps, the most outstanding performance goes to Christy, Sarah Bolger, who stands stronger than all the others at the young age of 11.

Christy is the most aware and the most stable of the family members and her emotional performance at the end is the most touching of any in the film. In a school performance, Christy presents one of the most symbolic and memorable highlights of the film when she sings "Desperado" by the Eagles alone on stage with a hint of an Irish accent.

The film is about life and death and about breaking the cycle of grief that keeps a family from fully embracing a new life. Sheridan adds his personal touch by allowing the viewer to see the world through a child-like and magical eye. And, Sheridan's two daughters Naomi and Kirsten, collaborated with the writing to make the film even more authentic.

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