In America (2002)

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Released 8-Sep-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Jim Sheridan (Director)
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Commentary
Featurette-Making Of-A Personal Journey
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 101:04
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jim Sheridan
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Paddy Considine
Samantha Morton
Sarah Bolger
Emma Bolger
Neal Jones
Randall Carlton
Ciaran Cronin
Djimon Hounsou
Juan Hernandez
Nye Heron
Jason Salkey
Rene Millan
Sara James
Case ?
RPI ? Music Gavin Friday
Maurice Seezer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    If you look past The Field, which promised much but delivered sadly little (except perhaps for some strong performances by the late Richard Harris and John Hurt), the films of writer/director Jim Sheridan have been uniformly excellent. From his earliest work, the very moving My Left Foot, to films full of passion and conviction like In the Name of the Father and The Boxer, Sheridan has proven himself to be a gifted storyteller and craftsman of human dramas. Turning to his latest release, by his own admission his most personal and autobiographical film, In America, I was once again pleased to be in such deft directorial hands. A worthy companion piece to My Left Foot, with which it shares similar virtues of powerful but subtle acting and a story both melancholy and joyful, In America was co-written by Sheridan and his two daughters, who incidentally are portrayed (as is the director) in the film.

    It is a simple story of an Irish family who decide to move to the United States with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a beat up car they are forced to sell to afford an apartment, and of course, dreams aplenty. To be sure (to paraphrase my Irish forebears) this is a story that has been told many times in various guises, however so convincing is the acting that we are swept up in their sometimes tragic, oftentimes very funny adjustment to their new lives. Oscar nominated Samantha Morton is extraordinary, creating a character fierce in spirit yet showing some of the sad stillness that so effectively marked her performance in Minority Report, however Paddy Considine, playing in effect Jim Sheridan, is no less compelling. The two young girls (real life sisters I learnt from the DVD extras - Sarah and Emma Bolger) are a revelation, and on many occasions they outshine their more experienced fellow thespians. Djimon Honsou (also nominated for an Academy Award for 2003) does some strong work here, and it is a pleasure to see him in a sensitively written and more rounded role that doesn't require him to selflessly serve and protect an Aussie actor in harsh, desert conditions (think Russell Crowe in Gladiator and Heath Ledger in The Four Feathers).

    This is a funny, courageous, tragic, sensitive, illuminating film told with obvious and endearing affection that resonates long after the final credits have rolled. Perhaps its greatest strength is that in telling much of the story through the eyes of the two girls (it is narrated by the elder daughter Christy (Sarah Bolger)), we as an audience experience the freshness of a new life in a new city and country with the same childlike enthusiasm and naiveté as they so obviously do. It is a wonderful film. All that is left to do is bemoan the Academy's failure to reward the tremendous talent of Jim Sheridan who left this year's Oscars ceremony empty-handed after his sixth nomination.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    For a film released in 2003 one would expect a good (hopefully excellent) transfer and, a few minor reservations aside, that is what we have been given, presented at its original aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 with 16x9 enhancement. It should be said at the outset that a significant part of the film seems to have been shot with DV rather than film camera, obviously intentionally, to afford the film a documentary authenticity - apt for a story based on fact. As such, the look of the film varies and contrasts but there are no obvious side effects of the use of different shooting methods.

    The transfer is not especially sharp, but sharpness levels are uniform throughout and having seen the film I wonder whether a clinical, razor-like acuity to the transfer, so apt in a film in the realms of sci-fi filmmaking, would have detracted from the warmth of the storytelling. Some may wish for a better defined image but for me it wasn't a problem. Shadow detail was generally pleasing and blacks, though sometimes suffering from some low level noise, were cleanly rendered.

    The film uses a wonderfully varied colour palette, which comes up well in the transfer - whether the gaudy reds and pinks of the New York streets' neon signs, the sterile greys and blues of the city hospital or the warm and comfortable colours of their apartment. The DV camera work has a more muted tone to it, but this is deliberate, and well delivered by the transfer.

    Film to video artefacts are noticeable on a few occasions (see MPEG artefacts at 7:57, 32:00 or 86:12 for example). Aliasing is minimal (5:44 and 27:31) and doesn't detract from viewing. Film artefacts are even less of a problem and the transfer is basically free of them - being supplied with a clean, recent print does wonders.

    All-in-all this is a comfortable transfer that, whilst not of spectacular quality, is not of an inferior standard either.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is excellent - we are provided with a solitary 5.1 Dolby Digital English track that is both subtle and immersive when it needs to be.

    Dialogue is always clear and, except for the occasional difficulty one might have with Irish or African (or even New York) inflected English, easy to understand. The voiceovers of Christy are well caught and layer well over the film. Audio sync is good throughout, only missing a beat at 10:03.

    The musical score by Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer is not particularly ground-breaking but is rarely cloying or overtly manipulative. Even the 'emotional' scenes, with the standard soft piano over strings accompaniment is inflected with some thoughtful introspection.

    The surround channels are not worked to breaking point by any means but there is a gentle ambience provided for the street scenes and the thunderstorm scene is captivatingly done - the rear speakers and subwoofer doing what we love.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

Menu Audio

    The extras package for this DVD is not huge but includes some interesting material, well presented and packaged (even if the deleted scenes were a little disappointing).

Director/Writer commentary from Jim Sheridan

    What a wonderful commentary this is - Sheridan wears many hats adroitly, and speaks frankly and good heartedly about not only the filmmaking experience, but also the personal background to this obviously important film. This is one of the best audio commentaries I've listened to, and I urge all to set aside the time to listen to it. It should be noted that there is also a subtitle track of the commentary available should you wish to hear the film's audio - it is not word for word but keeps up well and conveys all the important information.

Deleted Scenes

    The ten deleted scenes, provided with optional (informative) commentary from the director, are not of a particularly high standard visually (poorer video quality without 16x9 enhancement) but provide some insight into the film's editing and storytelling. We are provided with a Play All option or you can select the scenes individually. They total about twelve and a half minutes of running time.

A Personal Journey - The Making of In America

    This is the extra I normally select with my hand trembling as it clutches the remote control (OK not that bad) but there is always trepidation. This, however, is not your standard fluffy, shallow piece of self-congratulatory studio puffery (although there are traces - kept to a minimum I guess because this was not a major studio picture). Rather, running at a decent (though still too short) 20:19, this mini documentary includes interviews (presented at full frame) with all the major cast and crew, interspersed with non-16x9 enhanced footage drawn from the film and behind the scenes footage. Most important are the insights from the three Sheridans - father and daughters. Worth a look.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Many reviewers of the Region 1 DVD have spoken of its tremendous clarity and some have gone as far as to label it as 'near flawless'. I didn't use those adjectives to describe our transfer and wonder whether we have been shortchanged or perhaps we are just harsher critics south of the equator. Hard to say.

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 misses out on:

    Personally I would go for the Region 4 considering the better extras package and PAL transfer, however if the Region 1 transfer is actually superior to ours you may want to consider that, remembering cost must be taken into account.

Summary

    In America is one of the best films of last year, sitting comfortably amongst such brilliant films as The Return of the King, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, House of Sand and Fog, 21 Grams and Mystic River in my Top 10. Simply put, it is a great story well told. See it now.

    The video quality is good if not outstanding.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras place emphasis on quality rather than quantity, although a more comprehensive package would have been warmly welcomed.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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