Film: In America

In America is a 2002 Irish drama film by Jim Sheridan starring Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton, Djimon Honsou and Sarah Bolger in her film debut. It is mostly based on Sheridan's real life experiences when he moved to the USA for work.

The story is told from the perspective of Christy Sullivan (Bolger), a ten-year-old Irish girl whose family emigrates to America for a fresh start. She and her younger sister Ariel (played by Bolger's real life sister Emma) have recently lost their baby brother Frankie to a brain tumour and the family is struggling to cope. Hardships of their new life in New York and a growing friendship with an African man called Mateo (Honsou) who lives in their building helps the family grow and move past the tragedy.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ability Over Appearance: Christy was written to be 12 or 13 years old but Jim Sheridan ended up casting 10 year old Sarah Bolger in the role after she impressed him.
    • Which gives us a weird line where Christy's narration says "and that's when the baby was conceived". Sure a 13 year old knowing about conception is understandable but a 10 year old, not so much.
  • Actor Allusion: The London accent that Johnny is asked to do at an audition is actor Paddy Considine's real accent.
  • Aerith and Bob: An Irish family with names such as Johnny, Sarah, Christy, Frankie and...Ariel? We can only assume the parents were massive fans of The Little Mermaid.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Played with. Sarah getting pregnant and bringing a new baby into the family does help them get over Frankie but their issues are resolved through other means and Johnny does point out the difficulties another child would bring to the family.
  • Bad Bad Acting: Averted. Johnny has trouble getting roles because he can longer express proper emotions in his acting.
  • Big Applesauce
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: As Mateo dies, the newborn baby Sarah shows signs of life.
  • Black Best Friend: Marina, Sarah's co-worker from the ice cream parlour.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: A sadder version of this trope than normal; when Johnny asks Christy, "Are you okay, little girl?", she snaps, "Don't 'little girl' me. I've been carrying this family on my back for over a year."
  • Children Are Innocent: Ariel.
  • The City vs. the Country: Done realistically meaning the family accepts the hardships of moving to America but ultimately find their feet without having to return home.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Ariel says they'll name the new baby after Mateo. It turns out to be a girl so they just give her Mateo as a middle name. It would have been a straight example if Sarah had died like the doctors thought she would.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Plenty of cultural differences between Ireland and America are pointed out.
  • Empathic Environment: It starts to rain during Sarah and Johnny's steamy sex scene just before Sarah starts talking about their dead son.
  • Fanservice: The family arrives in New York during a very hot summer so Paddy Considine spends about half an hour running around in vests and tank tops while Samantha Morton gets a big She's Got Legs scene.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Averted completely. The family must sell their car to pay the deposit on their run down apartment, Sarah must work overtime at an ice cream parlour and Johnny works as a taxi driver to barely scrape even.
  • In-Universe Camera: Christy has one that helps document some of their lives in America.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Ariel to the lady in the ice cream parlour "Mummy's playing with Daddy upstairs".
  • It's a Costume Party, I Swear: An unintentional variation. The girls go to a Halloween party at their school wearing home made costumes only to find everyone else has bought theirs.
  • Fake Nationality: British Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton play the Irish parents and many of the American characters are played by Irish actors.
  • Magic Realism: Sarah's "wishes" are never said to be actually magic or just lucky coincidence but the first one gets them through the border and the second helps Johnny win the ET doll and stop them from blowing all their money.
  • Magical Negro: Mateo is a bit of a Reconstruction. He is very spiritual and helps the family out but is actually dying of an illness and is deeply depressed over losing his own wife and son. Johnny initially resents him for being a better father figure to the girls but ultimately the relationship with him helps the family for the better.
  • Mondegreen: Ariel thinks The Star Spangled Banner goes "Jose can you see", but Christy corrects her.
  • Never Say "Die": Mateo lies to Ariel saying he's an alien and going away to another planet instead of dying of a serious illness. Which makes it all the more shocking when Ariel blatantly says the word "dying" later in the film.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Much like Slumdog Millionaire this was marketed as a happy uplifting family film, leaving out all the angst and tear jerking including the fact that the family had recently lost a child.
  • The Pete Best: Sarah Bolger actually never intended to audition for the film. Her sister Emma auditioned for Ariel and then said to Jim Sheridan to meet her sister who was in the car outside.
  • Playing Gertrude: Samantha Morton, who plays Sarah, is only 14 years older than Sarah Bolger.
  • The Pollyanna: Ariel, though she does have her moments.
  • Rule of Three: Frankie gives Christy three wishes.
  • Stepford Smiler: Sarah who puts on a brave face for the sake of the children, though is deeply depressed over losing Frankie.
  • Welcome to the Big City