A modern fairy tale, of sorts, In America is about an Irish family that moves to America after suffering a family tragedy, only to suffer even more. Despite all of the good things I’ve heard about this film (it’s at 89% on the Rotten Tomatoes meter), I was severely disappointed. I was hoping to find some truths about what it means to be American, about how immigrants see us or why they would risk so much to get into our country. Instead, I got a melodramatic weep-fest just short of a Lifetime movie.
One of my biggest problems with the film is that it struggles to establish a tone. At once, it wants to be an extremely human drama, evoking all manner of unknown emotions from the audience. Then, it wants to be a whimsical piece of magical realism. The children were the only fully realized characters (should we like the father or be wary of him? Is the secretive black man downstairs friend or foe?). In fact, they’re really the only outstanding aspect of the film. They turn in two of the best performances I’ve seen from child actors. They were given a lot of age-inappropriate dialogue (not inappropriate in the sense that it was explicit, but in the sense that no child would ever speak that loquaciously), and yet they almost managed to make it believable.
Writer/director Jim Sheridan seems more concerned with evoking emotions from the audience than actually establishing a solid foundation of settings, characters, and themes. For a movie that was supposed to make me feel sad, happy, and a variety of other feelings, I was completely disconnected emotionally from everything that happened on the screen.