Directed by Jim Sheridan. 2002.

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As a parent, although I fortunately have not had the experience, I can understand the unspeakable tragedy of losing a child. In America by Jim Sheridan is a very personal film about coping with loss and slowly coming to terms with it. The film is based on Sheridan's personal experiences and a film in which according to the director "basically, everything that happens in the film happened". The story is based on the recollection of Sheridan's two daughters, Naomi and Kirsten (now in their twenties) and is more of a tone poem about childhood than a faithful depiction of real events.

Irish émigrés Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (Samantha Morton) come to America by car from Canada with their two young children, Christy (Sarah Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger). The film shows the struggles of the family to find work. Johnny, the girls father, is an actor who goes to many auditions without success and their mother Sarah, a teacher, can only find work in an ice cream parlor. The family is forced to live in a squalid tenement in Manhattan filled with junkies, drug dealers, and transvestites. Frankie, the brother who died of a brain tumor is omnipresent in their thoughts and Christy says that he has told her that he will grant her three wishes when she asks.

Shame over poverty leads people to do reckless things and one of Christy's wishes has to be expended when her father gambles the rent money in an amusement park. When Halloween comes, the only place they can go trick or treating is in their own rundown building. Here they meet Mateo (Djimon Hounsou), one of the central characters of the film, a huge black man dying of AIDS who provides a bit of magic and emotional support. When Sarah becomes pregnant, they are even more haunted by Frankie's death but the prospect of a new life provides the impetus for them to persevere. In America has its flaws but it is warm, charming, and full of wonder and works on a very personal level to remind us that love, generosity, and even magic can exist in the most unlikely circumstances. 

Howard Schumann
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