December 08, 2003 12:00 PM

DRAMA

Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou

CRITIC’S CHOICE

This is a movie to treasure. In America is warm, wise, touching and—get ready for the cliché—it will make you laugh and cry and remember all over again why sometimes sitting in the dark with other people’s problems for a couple of hours can help put your own into perspective.

America is about what happens to an Irish family—a father (Considine), a mother (Morton) and two young daughters (real life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger)—when they move to Manhattan, seemingly in the mid-’80s. They have come not so much for economic opportunity but rather to start over emotionally, following the death of a young son. Living in one of the city’s patchier areas, they encounter both the best and worst America has to offer and learn that they must say goodbye to the past if they’re ever to have a future.

The secret to America is that it never preaches. Its characters go about their daily lives and, small incident by small incident, the movie delicately shows us who they are and why what they’re going through matters. Director Jim Sheridan (who cowrote the script with his daughters Naomi and Kirsten) based the film on his own family’s experiences. Aided by pitch-perfect acting from Considine, Morton and the adorable Bolger sisters, Sheridan has turned what were obviously tough times into glorious art. (PG-13)

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