Film reviews January 2004

The films are rated on a 4 star scale. Any comments should be addressed to Mike Weston at

Big Fish (3.5 stars, 2003, seen 1/31/2004, 2:05, rated PG-13):

[if I write a review of this film, the review will appear here]

Straight Into Darkness (2.5 stars, 2003, seen 1/11/2004, roughly 1:30, unrated):

[if I write a review of this film, the review will appear here]

In America (4 stars, 2002, seen 1/7/2004, 1:43, rated PG-13):

An Irish family is immigrating to America. As they cross the border we learn, thanks to the wonderfully exuberant comment from the younger daughter (Ariel, played by Emma Bolger), that the father (Johnny, played by Paddy Considine) does not have a job. We also learn that Ariel and her sister Christy (Sarah Bolger, Emma's sister in real life too) used to have a brother named Frankie, but he died. Christy, in a voiceover, worries that they won't get across the border and asks Frankie for a wish, which is apparently granted.

The family (including mother Sarah, played by the previously Oscar®-nominated Samantha Morton) arrive in New York City, and get an apartment in a very scary building. Another resident of the building, a black man named Mateo (Djimon Hounsou from Amistad) who lives downstairs, screams often, and has a big “keep out” sign on his door, is also a significant character. Sarah gets a waitress job while Johnny looks for acting work. They are very poor, although Christy seems to carry a camcorder everywhere (note that there is some SpastiCam™).

My understanding is that this is largely an autobiographical film by the director and co-writer (Jim Sheridan, who also directed My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, and The Boxer). The film is dedicated to Frankie Sheridan, and the other co-writers are Sheridan's daughters, Naomi and Kirsten, presumably represented by Ariel and Christy in the film.

This is an excellent drama with small moments of humor, great performances (especially from Morton and the two girls), and interesting editing. I would put it in the slice of life category, yet it also tells a very compelling story. While there are a few very brief missteps, there are also several truly magical moments. This film is very highly recommended.

Triplettes de Belleville, Les (3 stars, English title: The Triplets of Belleville, 2003, seen 1/4/2004, 1:20, rated PG-13, in English and French):

[if I write a review of this film, the review will appear here]

Station Agent, The (3.5 stars, 2003, seen 1/1/2004, 1:28, rated R):

Fin (Peter Dinklage) is a dwarf who loves trains. He works in a small model train shop until circumstances send him to a small town in New Jersey where he has inherited a small property with an old train station on it. The station isn't much of a house, but Fin has simple tastes.

Fin would really just like to be left alone, but being a dwarf, especially in a small town, draws constant attention and curiosity. Soon he has met Joe (Bobby Cannavale), who is running the “roach coach” while his father is ill, and Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), an artist. These three form the core of the film, although we also meet young Cleo (Raven Goodwin from Lovely and Amazing), who also likes trains, and the town librarian.

This is a film that isn't about much and doesn't have very much plot, but it's a very nice little film nonetheless. Clarkson and Dinklage are excellent, and Cannavale creates an entertaining and memorable character. It was shot on film but looks a little grainy at times, though not at all enough to distract.

I find myself comparing this to Lost in Translation, another small film (although this film won the Independent Spirit Award for films made for under $500,000, which means Lost had a budget about 8 times larger) with very good characters, a deliberate pace, and not very much plot. Lost in Translation seemed to me to flow just a little more smoothly and naturally and also had some memorable cinematography of Tokyo, so I judged it to be somewhat better than this film. But Lost was my favorite film of 2003, so anything this close is obviously very good. Do seek it out.

External filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database.

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