Breaking away from his bold set in Ireland stories, Jim Sheridan tells an Irish tale, a personal tale at that, set, you guessed it, in America. In doing so, especially by placing the story in New York, makes this movie inherently American. In fact, In America offers up a huge slice of Americana both thematically and visually.
The story, Sheridan’s semi-autobiographical tale, nicely and compactly, offers entertaining asides that weave alongside the main narrative and dramatic path. Often though, and perhaps unfortunately, these asides become more poignant, thus more interesting and memorable, than that of the main tale.
Real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger steal the movie completely. Charming and real, these girls represent the humanity of America, whereas their parents, the always able and enjoyable Paddy Considine and Samatha Morton, represent the American Dream. Christy and Ariel possess goodness and laughter, and welcome their new surroundings with a wide-eyed innocence yet have that constant tinge of sorrow that perpetually remains alongside them like the dangerous alleyways of New York itself.
The biggest struggle with the film is not thematic, rather, technical, as the constant use of intermingling film stock with that of videotape is often jarring. Even worse are the multiple times where the film camera looks into the view screen of Christy’s always-on camcorder. Yes, this is the way Christy is chronicling her life but the mixing of mediums is not only distracting but cheapens the dramatic sense of the movie. Sheridan goes out of his way to make a personal – and touching – film. There are other available outlets if he just wanted to show home movies.
In America beautifully shows the timeless, mythical side, be it for good or ill, of America, or New York at least, with a superb cast and memorable scenes. At times the film goes just as deep as his “Irish Trilogy” entries. Other points throughout are merely shallow. But isn’t that the way life is like, especially… in America?