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In America

Author Lauren Brosnihan
Air Date 3/15/2005

In America Transcript

Brief Sound Clip:

That’s Kristy Sullivan, who has just used up one of the three wishes she thinks she has in life by safely crossing the Canadian-American border with her family on their way to New York City. It’s from the opening scene of Jim Sheridan’s 2002 film, In America, a semi-autobiographical odyssey of an Irish family’s emigration to the United States.

In the film, we ride along with Sarah and Johnny Sullivan and their two children, Kristy and Ariel, as they enter the United States. They tell the immigration officers they’re “on holida”, and they just barely make it through — most probably because of the kindness and sympathy of the officer who waves them through. And their adventure is, at first, a kind of holiday in New York, with its lights and noise and energy. But then the day-to-day struggle to survive in a new country begins for the Sullivans, a family that is both full of life and hope and at the same time haunted by the earlier, tragic loss of one of their children, little Frankie.

We learn about the Sullivans and their journey through the eyes of their children. Ariel, the youngest, tells us exactly what she thinks — at all times. Her older sister, Kristy, prefers to communicate with the camcorder that she carries with her everywhere, and that she uses to documents their new experiences and as well as the Sullivan’s past. With the camcorder, Kristy is an observer of the present, but she is also a caretaker of the sad memories of her family’s history. As Ariel pointedly tells us, “Kristy tells her secrets only to the camera.”

These secrets gradually reveal themselves through the children’s blossoming friendship with the dying artist, Mateo, who lives in their tenement building, and later through the birth of their new sister — two events in the film that provide the family with occasions to both grieve their losses as well as to celebrate their unfolding new lives. And it is an extraordinary, touching journey of hopes and dreams tempered by the harsh realities of poverty, prejudice, and painful personal loss. In the end, Sheridan’s film, (the script for which he co-wrote with his daughters), is about the emigration of a family’s soul, and its voyage to find its own reconciliation of past and present, sorrow and joy, the burdens of memory and the fresh promise of the future.

Posted in Film