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Marriage, parenthood, bill-paying, and grieving In America

Writer/Director Jim Sheridan's In America is probably not going to win Oscars. It doesn't have explosions, swords, monsters, a sweeping sentimental soundtrack, or a platitude at the end that gift-wraps "the moral of the story." The preferred Hollywood credo of "believe in yourself" is nowhere to be seen. In fact, if In America assures of anything, it is that life is full of hardship: the hardship of raising a family, of making a living, of dealing with death and disease, of enduring life's unexpected crises.

But it is also a film about human kindness, about the value of childlike faith, and about the strength that marital fidelity and faithful parenting can provide in hard times. Ultimately, while one of the characters still has grave doubts about the existence of a benevolent God, the film leans in the direction of faith and the existence of grace. In America is one of the year's richest, most rewarding films. While it deals with subject matter that makes inappropriate material for children, discerning grownups will find much to think about and discuss.

Sheridan's film is not his autobiography. Still, as an Irishman who brought his family to America, he fills this film with intimate details and echoes of things that really happened. The story follows an Irish family as they move to Manhattan and try to build a new life while their money quickly disappears. They have good reason to leave their homes and their past. The loss of a child, Frankie, to a brain tumor, has left all of them wounded and soul-weary.

In this way, the film quietly reminds us of the loss and trauma that still aches in Manhattan's broken heart. While the film does not directly relate to the events ...

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December 2003

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