Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Real-life sisters dazzle ‘In America’

For only $3.75 (students)/$4.25 (others), this weekend movie
lovers can watch “In America,” an engrossing film by Dublin-born
director Jim Sheridan playing at the Memorial Union’s Fredric March
Play Circle (April 30-Sunday May 2: Fri. 7 p.m., 9:30 p.m.,
midnight, Sat./Sun. 7 p.m., 9:30).

Based on Sheridan’s own struggle to survive in the
1980s while trying to pursue an acting and playwriting career, “In
America” (PG-13) is a personal film that uncovers the emotional
baggage attached to the accidental death of his younger brother.
The film focuses on the challenges of an Irish family starting a
new, penniless life in New York City. The most poignant and unusual
element of Sheridan’s work is the origin of the narrative as told
from a child’s perspective.

Co-written by Sheridan and his two daughters, Kirsten
and Naomi, he shared the challenges of writing such a personal
script in a televised interview with Charlie Rose. Sheridan
explained his original plan for the movie — a comedy of coming to
New York from the father’s point of view (real-life Jim Sheridan)
and how his daughters disapproved and then altered the script to
focus on their own experience as immigrants in New York City.


Sheridan introduces us to this young family of four as
they drive over the U.S. border illegally by masking themselves as
jolly Canadian vacationers. Once physically far away from the
haunting death of the couple’s third child, Frankie, this family
drives into Manhattan in a beat-up station wagon overfilled with
their belongings. Poverty-stricken and desperate for a place to
call home, they move into a Hell’s Kitchen apartment filled with
small creatures, drug transactions and a multitude of other

Narrated by the 11-year-old daughter, Christy (Sarah
Bolger), “In America” illustrates the immigrant experience from an
unusually witty, innocent and insightful perspective. Christy’s
charm touches us all — she comically nicknames her family’s
junkie-infested building “The house of the man who screams,” after
one of the other tenants who periodically emits wrenching,
soul-destroying howls. However, instead of simply offering us
satirical comments, her precocious awareness of the family’s wobbly
emotional situation is revealed in daily conversations with her
dead little brother in heaven.

Like her charming, eloquent sister, 6-year-old Ariel
(Emma Bolger) is a magical, adorable and energetic young lady who
draws us in with her graceful movements and priceless smile.
Whereas more mature characters, such as the father, Johnny (Paddy
Considine, “24 Hour Party People”), could have given us a more
developed perspective, Christy’s fascination with Manhattan’s
bright lights, hustle and bustle, her fearless adaptation to her
family’s new neighborhood, and her curiosity with Hell’s Kitchen’s
odd cadre of inhabitants provide the audience with a fresh view of
the assimilation process.

Although Jim Sheridan’s initial script cast him as the
protagonist, the film is stronger and more emotional because of its
focus on Christy and Ariel’s childhood musings as their parents are
focused on routine, mundane adult activities. While their father
looks for work as an actor and their mother, Sarah (Samantha
Morton, “Minority Report”), takes a job at an ice cream parlor to
bring in some much-needed cash, these two girls stare through large
city windows in awe of the delights and diversions of New York —
its new cultures, skyscrapers and vibrancy.

When the Sheridan sisters see their father carry a
stolen air conditioner across rush-hour traffic or their mother’s
labor problems in the hospital, they fail to understand the
seriousness of these complex issues and see it as just another
adventure. Christy and Ariel’s honest point of view make “In
America” an emotional adventure for us all, raising complex family
issues in an almost artsy form.

Since its opening in late 2003, the film has been
nominated for three 2004 Academy Awards — Djimon Hounsou for best
supporting actor, Samantha Morton for best lead actress, and Jim
Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridan and Naomi Sheridan for best screenplay
directly written for the screen.

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