In America (2002)
12th April 2004
Johnny, his wife Sarah and their two young daughters, Christy and Ariel, arrive in modern-day Manhattan in order to take on the American dream. Newly arrived immigrants from Ireland they are quickly taken in by the aura and magic of New York. However, the family arrive in this strange and wonderful land with memories of the tragic death of their youngest son still fresh in their minds.
Short on money the family sell their ramshackle car and settle into the best New York tenement that their meagre budget will allow. Naturally, their budget doesn't stretch too far and they end up in a building which is populated by junkies, transvestites and a range of weird and wonderful characters. Never the less, it is still a place to live and thanks to a lick of paint and second hand furniture they go about turning their dreary apartment into something that they can truly call home.
Johnny is an actor and like most new faces on the scene he struggles to get work, so in between auditions and learning his lines, he is forced to earn extra money by driving a taxicab whilst Sarah works in an ice-cream parlour. The family face all the hardships and extreme summer weather conditions that can be expected from moving to a new country. Yet whilst Johnny and Sarah see America as rife with challenges and dangers, the wonderful innocence still within their daughters enable them to see things through a different set of eyes where anything can happen. But when Halloween arrives, Johnny and Sarah bring them back into the real world and prevent them from wandering the streets of Manhattan for the annual 'Trick or Treat' celebrations.
However, never ones to give up, Christy and Ariel decide to knock on the doors of the tenement. But no matter how hard they knock on the doors their cries of 'Trick or Treat' are ignored. So with one last dare they decide to knock on the door of 'the screaming man', a mysterious neighbour named Mateo. And by doing so they start a chain reaction which brings the once reclusive artist out of his shell whilst the family realise that Mateo is not as fearsome as he first seemed. It's not long until they all become the best of friends. And their friendship and spiritual beliefs are going to become all the more important when both Sarah and Mateo's health makes a dramatic change in course.
The colours are rich and bright with a wonderful amount of detail and an above average bit-rate throughout. With a wide range of locations and night time scenes the black levels remain impressive throughout and there no signs of artifacting, grain or edge enhancement. It's complemented by an excellent transfer which is remarkably clean with little or no signs of dust specks or other forms of picture imperfections.
Naturally, for a film of this genre, there is a little need for an dynamic soundtrack. Never the less, the 448Kpbs Dolby Digital soundtrack is pleasant enough with some clear and precise dialogue in the centre channel along with the occasional use of the surround channels. Again, the films audio dynamics mean that there are no signs of any LFE or surround effects of real note, but it's certainly more than adequate to meet the films needs.
Upon inserting the disc into your player you are greeted with the increasingly annoying number of trailers for new DVD and theatrical releases which you can't skip. Fortunately, the trailer here is for Master and Commander so if you've not already suffered from information overload for this release you can indulge yourself a little bit more. Once the menu trailer is out of the way there's a brief animated introduction followed by a static but scored menu. The menu options are easily accessible whilst each additional menu is scored.
Although the extras seem rather limited they are in fact quite substantial and interesting. The 20 minute making of featurette is extremely interesting and it goes to prove that not all actors are self centred and demanding. In fact, all of the cast, crew and writers come across as extremely friendly people with real life twin sisters Sarah Bolger and Emma Bolger being particularly mature for their age. Again, the deleted scenes are interesting enough and vary greatly in quality from time coded scenes with copyright information to reasonably quality footage. Jim Sheridan offers an optional audio commentary track and provides some interesting snippets of information on why the scenes were cut.
Writer, director and producer Jim Sheridan also provides an interesting feature length audio commentary track. There's never a break in the commentary and Jim's easily digestible commentary reveals just how many of his friends and acquaintances have small parts in the film as well as mentioning that the film was shot just after September 11th and thus accounted for the large amounts of flag waving. There's also plenty of information on the cinematography and the true story behind the inspiration for the film.
In America is not going to be to everyone's taste and at times it can be too over sentimental for it's own good. Never the less, it still manages to be a touching story. This is all more enhanced by the wonderful acting from the entire cast, with Sarah Bolger and Emma Bolger being notable highlights and certain stars of the future. And from their scenes alone I'll challenge anyone not to feel at least one twinge of emotion, be it from a lump in the throat or a beaming smile. It's just a pity that the over sentimentally ultimately spoils the film. Still, it's worth a viewing, even if it's just for the acting.
- Jim Sheridan Audio Commentary
- 10 Deleted Scenes
- A Personal Journey : The Making of in America