Jim Sheridan

Paddy Considine, Emma Bolger, Sarah Bolger and Samantha Morten as a family of Irish immigrants in In America (2002)

Paddy Considine, Emma Bolger, Sarah Bolger and Samantha Morten as a family of Irish immigrants in In America (2002)

  • Born: 1949
  • Rank: 61
  • Score: 559.90
  • Awards: NBR (for screenplay)
  • Nominations: 2 Oscars for directing (6 overall) / Golden Globe / BFCA
  • Feature Films: 6
  • Best: In America
  • Worst: Get Rich or Die Tryin

Films (in rank order):

  1. In America – 2002
  2. In the Name of the Father – 1993
  3. My Left Foot – 1989
  4. The Boxer – 1997
  5. The Field – 1990
  6. Get Rich or Die Tryin – 2005

Top 10 Best Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1989 – 9th – My Left Foot
  • 1993 – 3rd – In the Name of the Father
  • 2003 – 5th – In America

The first I heard of Jim Sheridan was when he was nominated for Best Director (and My Left Foot for Best Picture) instead of Ed Zwick for Glory. I hadn’t seen My Left Foot yet and didn’t know how good a film it was, I just knew I was pissed. But of course, Sheridan has proven to be a better director than Zwick and his one mis-step (Get Rich) will probably disappear into the past with his new film coming out in the fall (Brothers) and his Boston Irish gangster saga at work (Black Mass). He is the perfect person to film the actual Whitey Bulger story given his Irish background, his great Irish films (including true crime story Father) and his fantastic film about the Irish coming to America in modern days (In America).

In America – #4 film of 2003

SPOILERS AHEAD – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED

I can’t get through the film without crying. I can’t even get through describing the scene to someone without crying. Let’s see if I can type it.

She’s made three wishes. She is Christy, the older daughter in an Irish family that is coming to New York City to make a new start after the son has died. Her father is an out of work actor and they are hoping to find a new life, but the troubles begin before they can even make it into the country. So Christy asks her brother, Frankie, her dead brother, to grant her a first wish and let them in. And they get in and the four of them begin again in a New York City that is partially a fairy tale.

In some ways the story is timeless. It bears images from when the Sheridans actually came to New York in the 80’s (including E.T. – but that was revived in the early 00’s, so it still works for modern times) which makes sense because Jim Sheridan wrote the screenplay with his two daughters (they were all Oscar nominated for it). But this New York also has the spectre of poverty and AIDS and dreadful summer heat. And at the street fair, their father bets all of their money (including the rent money) on a game and as he lets the ball go towards the target, Christy asks for her second wish and they manage to salvage their lives again.

Christy is the lens through which this story is told because she gives us the narrative and because she uses a video camera to record their lives. Parts of these lives include another baby who has health problems and a father who wants to act but can’t even act with his own children. They are losing themselves and Christy holds them together. She tells them all this in a poignant scene where she must give a transfusion of blood to the new baby. But it is at the end of the film, when the family has managed to pull themselves together, when the baby will be okay, when they have a community around them to welcome them home that Christy makes her third wish.

She is outside on the balcony with her father and they decide to make the younger daughter feel better by seeing E.T. in the sky, seeing him return home. But after they give this vision to Ariel, letting her say goodbye to E.T. in a way in which she can stay happy, Christy turns to her father and asks her brother for the third wish.

“Say goodbye to Frankie, dad,” she says. And there, in that moment, with father looking at daughter, is all the emotion this film has built up, all the fantastic performances that I haven’t mentioned. Because Christy knows this is what her father needs to do so they can go on with their lives. And so he does. The third wish is granted.

And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even write about the moment without crying. It is maybe the most touching moment in all of film.

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