As skilled a filmmaker as Sheridan is, he is bound by the rules set out by the story. He needs, and fails, to explain how the Sullivans' meager income is enough to live on--this is New York City, after all--and why the dangerous, run-down apartment building where the they reside is not really so bad. There is one extraordinarily gripping sequence, set in an amusement park, in which Johnny risks the family savings in an attempt to win Ariel an E.T. doll. But for much of the movie, mundane, authentic details are ignored, which stretches credibility. The girls' friendship with Mateo is also problematic; he's believable but his interactions with the Sullivans are just a little too precious.
Sheridan claims much of what happened in the movie happened to him. But, as depicted on screen, "In America," despite superior acting from Morton and the Bolger sisters, fails to completely convince. Starring Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton and Djimon Hounsou. Directed by Jim Sheridan. Written by Jim Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan and Kirsten Sheridan. Produced by Jim Sheridan and Arthur Lappin. A Fox Searchlight release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, drug references, brief violence and language. Running time: 103 min