In America, is a delightful film written by master storyteller Jim Sheridan. It tells the story about an Irish immigrant couple with two daughters, who come to the USA illegally by way of Canada. The family moved to New York as a means of escaping the sad memories of their five-year old son’s untimely death due to a brain tumor. The story is narrated by the couple’s 10-year old daughter, who shares the family’s many experiences. Being poor, they lived in Lower East Side New York in a scary tenement where beggars, thugs, and drug addicts reside since they were unable to find decent housing.
The family experienced many challenges as they struggled to adjust to a new way of life, much different from rural Ireland. The father, who wanted to be an actor, had to drive taxi at night in order to support the family. The daughters were challenged with language differences at the Catholic school and the mother wanted to have another child to fill the void of their son. Both parents put off mourning of the son while busily caring for their daughters. Yet against all these odds, this immigrant family managed to maintain hope, faith and start over in America.
When searching for friends, Mateo an eccentric African artist dying of AIDS became an important part of their extended family. His supportive friendship helped the family cope with their son’s loss and begin to celebrate life again.
One specific scene that reflects the power of family love and support was when Ariel told her dad that he wasn’t her father anymore because he didn’t smile, pray, or play with them like he used to do. Then Sarah gave an emotional plea to use his acting skills and pretend he was happy for the children’s sake. She said, “Make believe you’re happy!”
Though tainted with social stereotypes, the film effectively exposed the struggles often experienced by immigrants in America.
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