In America
PG-13
Entertainment: +1 1/2
Acceptability: -1 1/2

Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger. Writers: Jim Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridanl. Director: Jim Sheridan.

In America is a semi-autobiographical tale written by Oscar winner Jim Sheridan and his filmmaker daughters Naomi and Kirsten about an Irish couple and their two adolescent daughters beginning a new life in the U.S. To 11-year-old Christy (Sarah Bolger) and her younger sister (real-life sibling Emma), America is a place of magic where anything is possible. To their parents, it represents a place to begin anew. Carried by the girls’ youthful hope and faith, the family survives the hurt they left behind.

Wow, what a movie. I was enthralled. What makes this film so outstanding, besides the perfect casting and erudite dialogue, is the complete honesty of the production. Both story and performances maintain a truthfulness, an integrity throughout. There is simply not a false emotion in either the script or the acting.

Needing to start their lives over after the accidental death of their two-year-old son, the parents move their family from Ireland to New York. While in their new homeland, they must adjust to American ways, at the same time attempting to heal. But it is the downstairs artist who truly helps the family see what they have taken for granted. He is a tortured soul, a man alone, envious of what his new neighbors have been given – each other. When the little girls come to his door at Halloween, seeking treats, he is so moved by their sweetness and energy that he reconnects with his spiritual roots and passes on his revelations to the wounded family. While outright need for Jesus Christ is not mentioned, the film makes it clear that there is something more to life than our mental and physical existence. And although the father is angered with God, the ending offers the prospect that he is on the road to a spiritual healing.

All this may sound a bit heady, but the filmmakers avoid any peachiness. And though the loss of a child is a focal point, the story is not a downer. Rather, it is the most fulfilling, uplifting piece to come out of Tinseltown during the past year. It reminds those going through the loss of a loved one that they are not alone. Although it forces those left behind to once again address the subject, I feel it will ultimately be comforting and possibly helpful in the healing process.

PG-13 (2 obscenities and four minor expletives, but I caught no misuse of God’s name. One violent scene has a junkie pulling a knife on a main character, though disturbing, it does not end tragically. We see the parents in a sexual situation, undressing, her bare back is seen, and the two wind up in bed, making love. This scene is not graphic and it portrays a husband and wife expressing their love. Though casual sex is frequently used in movies in an attempt to be erotic, here it expresses a part of married life, showing that sex between married people is good and part of God’s plan. The subject matter of this film is too adult for little kids as it deals with the death of a child, the possible death of a mother during childbirth and the loss of a dear family friend, but I believe mature teens and older will find the honest portrayal of a family’s ability to endure life’s struggles both touching and insightful. In my opinion, along with the Chinese film Together, this was one of the best films of 2003).

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Summary
Crude Language: Several (8) times mild (hell 5, damn 3)
Obscene Language: Few (4) times strong (f-word 2, s-word 2)
Profanity: None (see Other for appropriate use of G)
Violence: Few times mild (man losing his temper and destroying things in his home, blood is shown being put on a painting); moderate (scene with a man putting a knife to a persons throat but no stabbing)
Sexual Intercourse: Once moderate (one scene of motions of sex showing skin but no nudity with a married couple)
Nudity: Once mild (topless woman with back to camera)
Homosexual Conduct: Few times mild (talk of transvestites)
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Few times mild (suggestive looks)
Drug Abuse: Few times appropriate (several scenes of drug addicts and their difficulty of life and horrible existence)
Other: Appropriate use of God 12 times
Running Time: 103 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults and Young Adults

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