In America

Listening to my mom and dad I was scared we weren't going to get across the border. And if I didn't talk to Frankie, how we're going to get into America? Please Frankie, please. Please help us I said.

From In America

Every once in awhile a heartwarming movie comes out in the cinema that blows the viewers’ senses away. Movie themes that is close to home and family life situation often evoke the anatomy of human complexities as they journey through life’s travails, frustrations and successes. Jim Sheridan’s 2002 movie “In America” explores these complex and aggravating elements of family life that captivate the audience senses making it one of the brilliantly produced movies appealing to all age levels. “In America” won audience and critics acclamations all over the world and ultimately landing multiple Academy Award nominations and international awards for cinematic approach to close-to-life family dramas in a time when cheap cable service was the norm.

The multiple academy award nominee Jim Sheridan has superbly written and directed this semi-personal depiction of his own palpable experiences as an Irish immigrant in the movie “In America.” This widely acclaimed movie is co-written by Sheridan’s daughter Kirsten, also a celebrated writer and director both embarking on their familial journey and survival in New York City’s populous and decrepit side borough of modern day Manhattan. A close semblance to Sheridan’s family in the movie is reflected in the eyes of the elder daughter narrating her parents and the young girls’ experiences in the new environment and their classic dream of a starting a better life in America.

“In America” revolves around five main characters who deliver effective portrayals and completes the riveting and amusing narrative of Jim Sheridan’s masterwork. The Sullivan family comprises of Johnny and Sarah as parents to two young girls Christy and Ariel plus the sickly neighbor Nigerian artist and photographer Mateo Kuamey. Johnny Sullivan the father who works as an actor played by Paddy Considine. The role of Sarah the mother is acted by the ebullient Samantha Morton and the two young daughters portrayed by Sarah and Emma Bolger who are sisters in real life. And the French actor and model Djimon Gaston Hounsou played the significant role of AIDS stricken Mateo.

It all begins with a ‘down and out’ young immigrant Irish young couple trying to escape the tragic loss of their son. The Sullivan’s tags along their two young daughters in search for respite and renewed life, far away from their past abode that will remind them of their dead son Frankie who suffered brain tumor but came to his early grave by a fall off the stairs. It is an incident that always haunts the couple and from time to time blaming each other for that painful episode in their lives.

The Sullivan’s brave crossing the boundary of Canada into the United States as tourists with intention and sole hope of recovering and uniting their family again after the devastating event in their lives. They find themselves living in the midst of New York City’s rough area around the neighborhood of Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. The poverty-stricken environment is the bastion of poor and blue-collar Irish immigrants just like the Sullivan’s. They live on the upper floor of a dilapidated apartment building without elevators which also happen to be the shelters of drug addicts, transvestites and ghastly people.

With little funds to their names, Sarah who’s a teacher in Ireland finds work at the nearby ice cream parlor as a waitress. Being illegal immigrants, Johnny has difficulties landing a job as an actor while Sarah tries to help with her meager income. Although money comes in trickles, the Sullivan family manages to boost up their lives with the pleasure of being close together and the bright hope of life improving in a new country. Their everyday lives and enjoyable events are chronicled through Christy’s camcorder reminding them of the simple fun and family love they have despite of their poverty. Even with the crucial decision of having another baby under such dire financial circumstance, the Sullivan’s kept their familial bond of love and togetherness. Johnny eventually enables himself to supplement their income by being a taxi driver to prepare for the coming baby and to continue sending their girls to school.

The girls befriending the reclusive AIDS stricken painter Mateo after one Halloween night and Sarah’s growing fondness of him with his kind and generous friendship with the girls add twist and dashes of sentiments. There's no doubt that writer and director's skill to squeeze moving moments from potentially schmaltzy story kept the audience swept away.

"In America" is a popular movie from 2002 which received three Academy Award nominations. These nominations were: Best Actress/ Samantha Morton, Best Supporting Actor/ Djimon Hounsou and Best Original Screenplay. In 2003 this movie made its way onto many top ten lists.

This very popular film was directed by Jim Sheridan who co wrote this much acclaimed movie with his daughters Kristen and Naomi. This three time award nominated saga, about a family which illegally immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland, is lightly based on Sheridan's and his daughters own experiences from when they moved from Dublin, Ireland to New York City back in the 1980's.

The immigrant family in the movie consists of a couple, Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (Samantha Morton) and their two remaining, of three, children, daughters, Christy and Ariel (played by real life sisters, Sarah and Emma Bolger). The couple's third child was a son named Frankie who had unfortunately passed away from a brain tumor brought on by a fall down a set of stairs before the family made the move to the U.S.

As the movie unfolds, it portrays how each member of the family uniquely deals with the grief or their loss. One aspect that makes this movie standout is the fact that it is told from the view point of 10 year old Christy, the oldest daughter in the family. Christy believes that she can have three wishes granted by her late younger brother. She uses each of these wishes at pertinent parts throughout the movie.

Jim Sheridan dedicated this film to his real life brother Frankie, who passed away at the young age of ten. The characters of Christy and Ariel are based on Sheridan's own daughters. According to Jim Sheridan, his daughters had wanted to make a film portraying how people are able to learn to overcome their pain and/or grief and live for the future rather then remaining trapped in the sorrow of the past.

Several Manhattan locations were used in the filming of "In America" including Hell's Kitchen, Times Square and the Lincoln Tunnel. The outside of the family's home emphasized 295 E. 8th Street, which is located at the corner of Avenue B in East Village, the way it was just before it was renovated. Some inside scenes were filmed at Ardmore Studios in Wicklow County in Ireland.

"In America" made its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival for 2002. The following year this enchanted saga of one immigrant family's struggles and triumphs, was shown at eight more film festivals. These were the Boston Irish Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Hamburg Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, the Dinard Festival of British Cinema, Austin Film Festival and Warsaw Film Festival. On October 31, 2003 this film opened in the UK, there it raked in 284,259 in British pounds on its opening weekend.

On Thanksgiving weekend of 2003 the film opened in the number one slot in the United States. “In America” kept its lead into the week to follow. To date, this is the only film to have earned more then $10,000 per theater. “In America” went on to gross $15,539,656 in the U.S. and $9,344,613 elsewhere for a whopping, worldwide box office total of $24,884,269. This film also won the Stanley Kramer Award in 2004.

Following is a bit of interesting trivia and amusing facts concerning this award winning film of “In America”:

Jim Sheridan originally planned to find a 12 or 13 year old girl to play the part of Christy, however, 10 year old Sarah Bolger impressed him so much that he gave the part to her instead.

During the filming of this movie, child actresses Sarah and Emma Bolger, who played Christy and Ariel, were the ones who were in charge of calling "cut" and "action" for every scene. This was allowed in order to make the acting easier on the children.

The street fair scene in the movie was actually filmed in Dublin, Ireland on Parnell Street. This street was closed off for three days while filming took place.

In summary, this movie is an inspiring tale about the adventures of one immigrant family as they make their way in America. This hit film made record amounts of money during its opening weeks in theaters. “In America” might be said to be one of the most acclaimed films of 2002.

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