The film is loosely based on the experiences of its director, Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot,” “In the Name of the Father”), and the screenplay was co-written by Sheridan and his daughters, Naomi and Kirsten, who lived through some of these events.
“In America,” premiering in Geneva at the Smith Opera House Thursday, follows a young Irish family that has recently immigrated to America — by coming through Canada. Patriarch Johnny (Paddy Considine) is an aspiring actor hoping to get his break in the New York theater scene. In the meantime, he and his wife, Sarah (Samantha Morton), have had to take low-paying jobs (as a cab driver and waitress, respectively) just to clothe and feed their two young daughters, Christy and Ariel (Sarah and Emma Bolger).
They're not having an easy time. In fact, they're all haunted by a past tragedy. The only person who may be able to help is Mateo (Djimon Hounsou), a seemingly intimidating artist who lives downstairs and who understands emotional pain all too well.
While this material isn't really new, Sheridan strives to make it as realistic and as low-key as possible. He's fortunate to get extremely strong performances by leads Considine (a rising star in England) and the always terrific Morton, whose heartbreaking turn as Sarah may be her best work to date.
Hounsou brings his customary intensity to this ensemble piece, and as Christy, Sarah Bolger exhibits a maturity beyond her relatively young years. Her young sister, newcomer Emma, also gives a performance that's free of cloying cutesiness.
“In America” is a unique and moving look at the 'immigrant experience' that is as much about family dynamics as it is about the struggle to survive in an unfamiliar country. It is perceptive about the countless ways in which it is hard to be poor and a stranger in a new land.
The Smith Opera House screens “In America” at 7 p.m. April 29, at 2 p.m. May 2, and at 7 p.m. May 3 and 4. With a running time of one hour, 43 minutes, this film is rated PG-13 for some sexuality, drug references, brief violence and language. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. All seats on Thursday are $3 and all seats on Tuesday are $2. Call 315-781-5483 or toll-free 866-355-5483 for details or to pre-order tickets.
The Smith Opera House is located at 82 Seneca Street in Geneva. The Smith is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva and by contributions from individual supporters.