Heroes of the Zeroes: In America
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
There’s storytelling sorcery even to gentle stories, and 2003’s “In America” offered an enchanting fable about the details of legend that people ascribe to everyday things.
Lights look bigger when first visiting a new city. Sex somehow feels more primal in hindsight after conception. Grief for a lost loved one is easily augmented and amplified when reminded of their memory. Simple joys give way to complex moments during which to marvel at life as though it’s make-believe.
Jim Sheridan commanded this blend of the mythic and real in a semi-autobiographical film (co-written with daughters Kirsten and Naomi) that never spilled over into simple sentimentality.
Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (Samantha Morton), and their daughters Christy (Sarah Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger), are all Irish illegal immigrants in New York. Seeking new starts after the death of young Frankie, their complexities become simple pleasures to Mateo (Djimon Hounsou), a hermitic artist living in their dilapidated brownstone whom the girls befriend.
There’s fragility for all in the family — Johnny’s simultaneously stifled creativity and grief, Sarah’s strain of breadwinning, Christy and Ariel worrying that Frankie’s death may limit their childhood experience. But the flawless performances match that with intense love and togetherness, best displayed in a carnival scene when Johnny risks the family’s money and the girls’ faith for an E.T. doll.
“In America” served as a peaceful reminder of the simplicity and clarity with which kids can stare down death and help adults come to a place of comfort — earning its cries as cathartic cleansing.