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This article is about the 2002 film. For similar uses, see In America.

In America is a 2002 Irish drama film directed by Jim Sheridan. The semi-autobiographical screenplay by Sheridan and his daughters Naomi and Kirsten focuses on an immigrant Irish family's efforts to survive in New York Citymarker, as seen through the eyes of the elder daughter.

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay for Sheridan, Best Actress for Samantha Morton and Best Supporting Actor for Djimon Hounsou.


Johnny and Sarah Sullivan and their daughters Christy and Ariel enter the United Statesmarker on a tourist visa via Canadamarker, where Johnny was working as an actor. The family settles in a rundown Hell's Kitchenmarker tenement occupied by drug addicts, transvestites, and a reclusive Nigerianmarker artist/photographer named Mateo Kuamey. Hanging over the family is the death of their young son Frankie (Cíaran Cronin), who died from a brain tumor induced by a fall down a flight of stairs. The once-devout Roman Catholic Johnny has renounced God and lost any ability to feel true emotions, which has affected his relationship with his family. Christy believes she has been granted three wishes by her dead brother.

Sarah gets a job in the local ice cream parlor to support the family while Johnny auditions for any role for which he is suited, with no success. Despite their poverty, the initial joy of being in America and the closeness of the family gives them the energy to make the most of what they have, and Christy chronicles the events of their life with a cherished camcorder. But as money runs low and the city's temperatures soar, tensions between Johnny and Sarah begin to rise with them. Not helping their financial and emotional strain is the discovery Sarah is pregnant. Johnny finds work as a cab driver to augment their income and help pay for the girls' Catholic school tuition.

On Halloween, the girls become friendly with Mateo when they knock at his door to trick-or-treat. Despite Johnny's reticence about the somewhat imposing and forbidding man, Sarah invites him to dinner. Eventually they learn the man is dying of AIDS.

Mateo falls down a flight of stairs and is knocked unconscious. Christy tries to resuscitate him using CPR, although she is warned away from him by the other residents, who seem to be aware he is HIV-positive. The man's condition continues to deteriorate as Sarah's fetus develops. The baby is born prematurely and in poor health, and Mateo's death coincides with the first healthy movements of the infant following a blood transfusion from Christy. The family is startled to learn their new friend settled their astronomical hospital bill before he died, and they give the newborn the middle name of Mateo in gratitude and to honor his memory.

With the birth of the new baby and the death of Mateo, Johnny finally is able to overcome his lack of emotion and put his grieving for Frankie to rest.


The film is dedicated to director/screenwriter Jim Sheridan's brother Frankie, who died at the age of ten. In The Making of In America, a featurette on the DVD release of the film, Sheridan explains Christy and Ariel are based on his daughters (and co-writers) Naomi and Kirsten. He says they wanted to make a film showing how people can learn to overcome their pain and live for the future instead of dwelling on the sadness of the past.

Manhattanmarker locations include Hell's Kitchenmarker, Times Square, the Lincoln Tunnel, and 8th Street in the East Villagemarker.

Interiors were filmed at the Ardmore Studios in County Wicklowmarker in Ireland. The fairground scene was filmed on Parnell Streetmarker, Dublinmarker.

The soundtrack includes songs performed by The Lovin' Spoonful, Culture Club, The Corrs, The Byrds, Kid Creole and The Coconuts, Evan Olson, and The Langhorns.

The film premiered at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festivalmarker. In 2003, it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, the Boston Irish Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, the Edinburgh Film Festival, the Hamburg Film Festival, the Warsaw Film Festival, the Dinard Festival of British Cinema, and the Austin Film Festival before opening in the UK on October 31, where it earned £284,259 on its opening weekend. It opened in the #1 position in the US on Thanksgiving weekend, and maintained its lead the following week, the only release to earn more than $10,000 per theater . It eventually grossed $15,539,656 in the US and $9,344,613 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $24,884,269


Critical reception

In his review in the New York Times, A.O. Scott called it a "modest, touching film" and added, "Many of [its] elements . . . seem to promise a sticky bath of shameless sentimentality. But instead, thanks to Jim Sheridan's graceful, scrupulously sincere direction and the dry intelligence of his cast, In America is likely to pierce the defenses of all but the most dogmatically cynical viewers . . . Mr. Sheridan is more interested in particular people than in general plights, and what lingers in the mind after you have seen his movies is the rough, radiant individuality of his characters . . . This movie, from moment to moment, feels small, almost anecdotal. It is only afterward that, like Mr. Sheridan's other films, it starts to grow into something at once unassuming and in its own way grand."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times observed, "In America is not unsentimental about its new arrivals (the movie has a warm heart and frankly wants to move us), but it is perceptive about the countless ways in which it is hard to be poor and a stranger in a new land."

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Walter Addiego stated, "I fought hard against the emotionalism of In America . . . but I lost. There's no questioning the director's ability to wring moving moments from potentially sentimental and decidedly familiar material: the story of penniless immigrants trying to make it in Manhattan. It got to me. I'm still trying to decide whether I was won over or worn down — but why not give Sheridan the benefit of the doubt? . . . [He] is clearly drawing on deep personal reserves for this picture, and despite a few sequences when the creative hand seems intrusive, does well by his subject. When you see a director going for that lump-in-the-throat mood, instinct takes over and you want to dig in your heels. Sometimes it's best just to let yourself be swept away."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film three out of a possible four stars, calling it "forceful, funny and impassioned" and "an emotional wipeout".

In the St. Petersburg Times, Steve Persall graded the film A and added, "This is a tearjerker for all the right reasons. Because it's delicately manipulative and the characters are so precisely emotional. And because Sheridan's manner with the material makes crying seem like a cleansing, an affirmation that something so simple and sweet can still move us . . . I loved this unassuming, heartfelt little gem, even if I couldn't stop sobbing for an hour after the show. It's just so beautiful."

Claudia Puig of USA Today called it "touching, but not cloying, uplifting and hopeful but never sappy and also just plain funny. There is not a false note among the five core performances, nor a false word in Sheridan's script. In America is a classic story of losing and finding faith told with heart, humor and emotional heft."

In The Observer, Philip French said, "The movie lacks conviction from implausible beginning to sentimental end."

Awards and nominations


  2. New York Times review
  3. Chicago Sun-Times review
  4. San Francisco Chronicle review
  5. Rolling Stone review
  6. St. Petersburg Times review
  7. USA Today review
  8. The Observer review

External links

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