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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Commentary - English
  Extras
  • 10 Deleted scenes
  • Audio commentary
  • Featurette
In America (Rental)
20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 101 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

In America is one of those films you find yourself watching and become quite annoyed when someone needs to leave the room and you have to pause it for a moment. It grabs you quite surprisingly with the beginnings in mystery and the slow progression of the plot until you find, when someone needs it paused, you are actually quite hooked on the outcome. Itís good to be surprised by a film in that manner.

Our story here is simple enough. Johnny and Sarah are taking their two little girls to America for Johnny to try his hand at acting. Deciding to leave Ireland after the death of their only son Frankie, the two parents struggle with their own emotional attachment to the boy, while their daughters Ariel and Christie look on helplessly. Told through their eyes we see the parents for what they are; hopelessly trapped in the unforgiving past, torturing themselves and each other with their grief and guilt, yet still trying to maintain a semblance of life for the girls. After they move into a rundown junkie building, they realise this world is like no other they know, and life amidst the dregs of New York is very, very different.

A tortured artist downstairs screams day and night, and hookers, she-males and crackheads wander the halls but, before long, they begin building their American dream. Befriending the Angry Man downstairs by chance, suddenly everything changes when this Catholic couple discover they are pregnant and the baby is not well, affected by their differing bloodtypes. Out of stalwart resolution they decide to carry the baby to full term if they can, although the hospital bills are suddenly astronomical and they will require a miracle to get themselves out of trouble.

Told in a unique method, utilising hand held cameras and diary voiceover from Christie, the film perfectly describes the pursuit of a better life amid the flotsam and jetsam of society. The suffering of the poor and the sick is captured well, as is the dynamic of these two parents struggling with their emotional states. Itís also, surprisingly, a warm film although it sounds quite cold. The storytellers being the innocent children of the couple is the inspired edge that makes this tale so easily accommodating when it could easily have been a tortured and brooding piece. And I donít know whoíd want to watch that.

Director Jim Sheridan evokes the perfect emotional response from both the cast and the audience here, even including a very simple, yet incredibly tense sequence early in the film after the young family have escaped the heat of New York by going to an air-conditioned movie. Sheridan directs his cast brilliantly and disguises the sets admirably. Only the outdoor shots of New York City were actually shot there, the rest being shot in Dublin.

In America is a sweetly candid story, based on actual events in Sheridanís life (he co-wrote it with two other Sheridans) and while not being told in a traditionally conventional manner, is still a film well worth the investigation for anyone after a touching and warm story.

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

The picture quality is quite good, as should be expected from a 2003 cinema released film. The image is perhaps just shy of razor sharp, but this isnít a problem, in fact, razor sharp might have ruined it. There are only occasional smaller film artefacts and colours and blacks are even throughout. Shaodw detail is good as are flesh tones and the numerous hand-held camera shots are all fine and practically grain free. A lot of the film looks like DV shooting and this also lends an ever so subtle documentary feeling, which it may well have been intended to have.

Dialogue is all clear enough, although some might have you extracting words from thick Irish or African accents. The subtitles are quick to keep up at any rate. Sound effects are all fine and recorded live, while the musical score by Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer roams the full complement of musical varieties, lending from myriad sources to get the best support on each scene. Delivered to us in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, the subwoofer gets a pretty even workout, though nothing too explosive, while the surrounds stay busy throughout. There is an awesome thunderstorm scene in which the sounds of rain and thunder are magnificently captured and constantly move around the soundstage.

Extras included here are an audio commentary with director Jim Sheridan, who speaks affectionately about the film without schmaltz or wet sentimentality and does provide a little more insight into some of the key moments we may have missed. There are also ten deleted scenes in which we also find the original ending though I must say I liked the one in the film a lot more. Finally, thereís a slightly different featurette in A Personal Journey: The Making of In America. This runs for 20:20 and describes, again without sloppy sentiment, the filmís progress from idea to fruition. Various cast and crew interviews are included as well as the three writers of the film. While being similar to other 'making of's this one has an indefinable difference Iím sure youíll notice yourself.

Overall, this is a film well worth checking out. Itís good humour, sadness, tragedy and warmth all combine to bring us a true slice of life. Shot well and told brilliantly, there isnít much to fault this 101-minute film, nor this fairly well filled out disc. Absolutely worth checking out, to be sure.


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  •   And I quote...
    "A warmly told and engaging story about one family finding hope amidst the grief of losing a loved one. "
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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