A family of four leaves Ireland for Manhattan to heal old wounds and chase the American dream. It sounds, well, awful — trite moralizing ladled with sentiment. That In America emerges as forceful, funny and impassioned is due to Irish writer-director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father), who based the film on his own experiences in New York in the 1980s. Sheridan wrote the script with his daughters, Naomi and Kirsten, and it gets to you.
Paddy Considine plays Johnny, a struggling actor on the audition circuit. His wife, Sarah (Samantha Morton, superb as usual), cares for their two girls, Christy (Sarah Bolger, 11) and Ariel (Emma Bolger, 7). This movie is owned by the Bolger sisters, whom only a grinch wouldn't take to heart. In addition to befriending a troubled artist (the excellent Djimon Hounsou), the girls help their parents cope with poverty, dad's gambling setbacks and the death of the couple's infant son. Contrived? A bit. But In America is still an emotional wipeout.