In America (2003)

PG-13 | 103 mins | Drama | 26 November 2003

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HISTORY

The film's working title was East of Harlem . The story was narrated throughout by the offscreen voice of Sarah Bolger as her character, "Christy Sullivan." End credit acknowledgments thank a number of organizations and individuals, and note the inclusion of film clips from the 1982 Steven Spielberg-directed Universal release E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial , the 1939 John Ford-directed The Grapes of Wrath and the 1958 Kurt Neumann-directed The Fly , both released by Twentieth Century-Fox. The film E.T. and the toy "E.T." doll, which was extremely popular after the film's release, are referenced at several points within In America .
       In America was inspired by actual events in the life of director-writer Jim Sheridan, who in 1982 moved with his wife and two young daughters to New York and lived there until 1988. Sheridan co-wrote the screenplay with his daughters Naomi and Kirsten, who were respectively represented by the characters "Ariel" and Christy in the film. Although a central theme of the film is the family's grief over the death of their young son "Frankie," and the film's credits include the dedication "To the memory of Frankie Sheridan," the real Frankie was not Sheridan's son, but his younger brother, who died at the age of ten, when Sheridan was seventeen. Like the film's Frankie, the real Frankie died of a brain tumor.
       In interviews, Sheridan has stated that the character of "Johnny Sullivan" is a composite of himself and his own father, as well as fictional elements. According to the film's pressbook, two incidents recounted in the film were taken from Sheridan's ... More Less

The film's working title was East of Harlem . The story was narrated throughout by the offscreen voice of Sarah Bolger as her character, "Christy Sullivan." End credit acknowledgments thank a number of organizations and individuals, and note the inclusion of film clips from the 1982 Steven Spielberg-directed Universal release E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial , the 1939 John Ford-directed The Grapes of Wrath and the 1958 Kurt Neumann-directed The Fly , both released by Twentieth Century-Fox. The film E.T. and the toy "E.T." doll, which was extremely popular after the film's release, are referenced at several points within In America .
       In America was inspired by actual events in the life of director-writer Jim Sheridan, who in 1982 moved with his wife and two young daughters to New York and lived there until 1988. Sheridan co-wrote the screenplay with his daughters Naomi and Kirsten, who were respectively represented by the characters "Ariel" and Christy in the film. Although a central theme of the film is the family's grief over the death of their young son "Frankie," and the film's credits include the dedication "To the memory of Frankie Sheridan," the real Frankie was not Sheridan's son, but his younger brother, who died at the age of ten, when Sheridan was seventeen. Like the film's Frankie, the real Frankie died of a brain tumor.
       In interviews, Sheridan has stated that the character of "Johnny Sullivan" is a composite of himself and his own father, as well as fictional elements. According to the film's pressbook, two incidents recounted in the film were taken from Sheridan's own life, although somewhat altered: Sheridan stated in interviews that he stole an old air conditioner during a New York heat wave and lost their rent money trying to win a carnival doll. These incidents are dramatized within In America , but it is not made clear how Johnny acquired the air conditioner and, although Johnny risks their rent money, he wins the doll and keeps their money.
       The film's pressbook and various published interviews with Sheridan state that he had been developing the idea for the film for ten years following a chance encounter with a former "Hell's Kitchen" neighbor. The incident took place in 1990, while Sheridan was in Los Angeles attending the Academy Awards ceremony as a Best Director nominee for his 1989 film My Left Foot . Interviews and the pressbook also state that Sheridan and his two daughters wrote independent drafts of the screenplay based on their own recollections, and compared them at various intervals.
       Within the film, the character of Christy spends much of her time looking through the lens of a home video recorder, taking pictures and reviewing videos from the past. The actual video camera used within the film was a newer and smaller version than would have been available in 1982, when home video cameras were much larger, heavier and less manageable for a child to use. Sheridan stated in interviews that the video camera, like some of the film's music, was deliberately made anachronistic to give the film a more timeless feeling. Although it is implied within the film that "Mateo" had AIDS, his disease is never identified.
       According to an item in the DV "Dish" column on 8 Mar 2001, British actress Kate Winslet was originally to portray "Sarah" in the film, but scheduling conflicts that arose after the production was pushed back following the actors' strike prevented her taking the role. Christy and Ariel were portrayed by real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger. Emma made her feature film debut in the picture. According to the pressbook, Emma, who auditioned first, insisted that Sheridan also audition her older sister. Although in the original screenplay the character Christy was about three years older than the then ten-year-old Sarah, Sheridan was so impressed with her that he changed the character's age.
       Most of the film's interiors, plus some exteriors, such as the carnival sequence, were shot in Dublin and at Ardmore Studios in Ireland. Most of the exteriors were shot at various seasons in New York City. According to the film's pressbook, the location for the tenement building, a principal interior in the story, was actually an old Irish castle that was made to appear like a run-down New York apartment.
       The film was well received in various film festival appearances and in its North American openings. According to a LAT news item on 8 Nov 2003, Fox Searchlight Pictures was planning to send out movie tickets to the film to approximately 25,000 movie awards voters throughout the U.S. This was done in response to a late 2003 ban on movie "screeners" that was instituted by the MPAA in an attempt to curtail video piracy.
       In addition to being named one of the ten best films of the year by AFI, and being named “Audience Favorite” at the Nov 2003 AFI Fest, In America received Academy Award nominations in the categories of Best Actress (Samantha Morton), Best Supporting Actor (Djimon Hounsou) and Best Original Screenplay. The picture also received two Golden Globe nominations, one for Jim, Naomi and Kirsten Sheridan for Best Screenplay--Motion Picture, and one for Bono, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer for Best Original Song--Motion Pictures for "Time Enough for Tears." The Sheridans won a Best Screenplay Critics' Choice Award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
       The picture was named Best Picture by the National Board of Review and was the recipient of the Producers Guild of America's Stanley Kramer Award, which honors a company, individual or production that addresses provocative social issues in an uplifting fashion. Independent Spirit Awards were presented to Hounsou for Best Supporting Male and to Declan Quinn for Best Cinematography. Additional Independent Spirit nominations included Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Female Lead (Morton) and Best Supporting Female (Sarah Bolger). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
8 Mar 2001.
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Daily Variety
15 Jun 2001.
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Daily Variety
6 Aug 2001.
---
Daily Variety
21 Oct 2003.
---
Daily Variety
18 Nov 2003.
---
Daily Variety
25 Nov 2003.
---
Entertainment Weekly
12 Dec 2003.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 2001.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 2001.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 2002.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 2003.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 2003.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Nov 2003
Calendar, p. 4.
Miami Herald
8 Dec 2003.
---
New York Times
26 Nov 2003.
---
Premiere
Dec 2003--Jan 2004
pp. 20-21.
The Observer (London)
12 Oct 2003
Screen, p. 8.
Time
1 Dec 2003.
---
USA Today
26 Nov 2003.
---
Variety
17 Sep 2002.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jim Sheridan FIlm
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
1st asst dir, New York unit
2d asst dir
2d asst dir, New York unit
2d asst dir, addl photog
2d 2d asst dir, New York unit
3rd asst dir
3rd asst dir, addl photog
Trainee asst dir
Trainee asst dir, addl photog
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Line prod NY unit
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog, New York unit
Digital cam, New York snow unit
Digital cam, New York snow unit
Super 16 cam, New York snow unit
Mini dv cam, New York snow unit
Steadicam op
Steadicam op & 2d unit dir of photog
'A' cam/Steadicam op, New York unit
Addl photog
Addl photog
1st asst cam, New York unit
1st asst cam--'B' cam, New York unit
2d asst cam, New York unit
Cam trainee
Focus puller
Focus puller, addl photog
Clapper loader
Clapper loader, addl photog
Film loader/Clapper loader, New York unit
Video assist/Op
Grip, New York unit
Grip, New York unit
Grip, New York unit
Grip, addl photog
Key grip, New York unit
Stills photog
Stills photog, New York unit
Gaffer
Gaffer, New York unit
Rigging gaffer, New York unit
Best boy
Best boy, New York unit
Best boy grip, New York unit
Dolly grip, New York unit
Elec, New York unit
Elec, New York unit
Elec, New York unit
Elec, addl photog
Elec, addl photog
Elec, addl photog
Elec, addl photog
Practical elec
Practical elec
Shop elec, New York unit
Generator op
Video playback, New York unit
Lighting
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir, New York unit
Supv art dir, addl photog
Art dir, addl photog
Asst art dir
Asst art dir, New York unit
Asst art dir, addl photog
Draughtsman
Art dept trainee
Storyboard artist
Storyboard artist, New York unit
Mateo's paintings and signage
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Art dept coord, New York unit
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed, New York unit
Avid asst ed
2d asst ed
Trainee ed
Trainee ed
Conforming asst
Negative cutting
Film laboratory
Film lab coord
Grader
Post prod facility
AVID supplied by
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec, New York unit
Set dresser, New York unit
Set dresser, New York unit
Set dresser, New York unit
On set dresser, New York unit
Prod buyer
Prod buyer, addl photog
Prop master
Prop master, New York unit
Prop master, addl photog
Asst prop master, New York unit
Asst prop master, New York unit
Chargehand dressing prop
Dressing props
Dressing props
Stand-by props
Stand-by props
Stand-by props, addl photog
Trainee props
Trainee props
Prop runaround driver
Prop runaround driver, addl photog
Supv carpenter
Stand-by carpenter
Stand-by carpenter, addl photog
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter, New York unit
Carpenter, addl photog
Carpenter, addl photog
Carpenter, addl photog
Carpenter, addl photog
Carpenter, addl photog
Carpenter, addl photog
Chargehand carpenter
Apprentice carpenter
Master painter
Master painter, addl photog
Stand-by painter
Stand-by painter, addl photog
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter, addl photog
Painter, addl photog
Supv plasterer, addl photog
Stand-by rigger
Stand-by rigger, addl photog
Rigger
Rigger
Rigger, addl photog
Stand-by stagehand
Stand-by stagehand, addl photog
Stagehand
Stagehand
Stagehand
Stagehand, addl photog
Const mgr
Const runaround
Const runaround, addl photog
Const coord, New York unit
Const coord, addl photog
Const foreman, New York unit
Key const grip, New York unit
Charge scenic, New York unit
Leadman, New York unit
COSTUMES
Asst cost des
Asst cost des, New York unit
Ward supv
Ward supv, New York unit
Ward supv, New York unit
Ward asst
Ward asst, addl photog
Ward trainee
Ward trainee
Ward trainee, addl photog
MUSIC
Comp/Orig mus wrt, arr & prod
Comp/Orig mus wrt, arr & prod/Orch
Performed by The Friday/Seezer Ensemble
Piano, keyboards, organ, accordian
Woodwinds
Drums, percussion, tuned percussion
Guitars, banjo, mandolin
The Irish Film Orchestra cond
Orch management
All mus rec and mixed by
Asst eng
Asst
Studio mgr
Mus supv
SOUND
Sd mixer/Prod sd rec
Sd mixer/Stand-by, New York unit
Boom op, New York unit
Boom/Cable, New York unit
Sd trainee
Sd trainee, addl photog
Supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
Dial/ADR ed
Asst dial ed
Asst ADR ed
Addl dial ed
Foley ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
ADR mixer
ADR mixer
ADR mixer
ADR rec
ADR rec
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Rec
Rec's asst
Sd maintenance
Dolby eng
Sd equipment supplied by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff coord
Spec eff coord
Spec eff supv, New York unit
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Title des
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
Visual eff coord
Seq supv
Digital compositor
Digital compositor
Digital compositor
Digital compositor
MAKEUP
Chief hairdresser
Chief hairdresser, New York unit
Asst hairdresser
Key makeup artist
Key makeup artist, New York unit
Asst makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Casting, Ireland
Casting, U.S.
Casting, U.K.
Background casting, New York unit
Prod mgr
Post prod supv
Prod supv, New York unit
Crowd coord
Crowd coord
Crowd coord, addl photog
Prod coord
Prod coord, New York unit
Prod coord, New York unit
Coord, New York snow unit
Asst coord
Loc mgr
Loc mgr, New York unit
Loc mgr, addl photog
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr, New York unit
Asst loc mgr, addl photog
Loc asst, New York unit
Loc asst, New York unit
Loc trainee/Asst
Loc trainee, addl photog
Loc scout--Baltimore
Scr supv
Scr supv, addl photog
Prod secy
Prods' asst
Prod asst
Key set prod asst, New York unit
Set prod asst, New York unit
Set prod asst, New York unit
Set prod asst, New York unit
Set prod asst, New York unit
Set prod asst, New York unit
Addl prod asst, New York unit
Addl prod asst, New York unit
Addl prod asst, New York unit
Addl prod asst, New York unit
Addl prod asst, New York unit
Office prod asst, New York unit
Asst to Ms. Morton
Asst to Jim Sheridan
Prod exec, Hell's Kitchen
Prod exec, Hell's Kitchen, Los Angeles
Prod consultant
Accountant, Hell's Kitchen
Prod accountant
Prod accountant, New York unit
Payroll accountant, New York unit
Payroll services
Asst accountant
Asst accountant, addl photog
Accounts asst
Accounting asst, New York unit
Accounts trainee
Accountants
Transport capt/Transport coord
Transport capt/Teamster capt, New York unit
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver, addl photog
Unit driver, addl photog
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Driver, New York unit
Cam car driver, addl photog
Action vehicle coord
Unit nurse
Unit nurse, addl photog
Catering, New York unit
Chef, New York unit
1st asst chef, New York unit
2d asst chef, New York unit
Craft service, New York unit
Chaperone
Tutor
Tutor, New York unit
Tutor, New York unit
Nutritionist
Animal handler
Voice coach
Dialect coach
Medical consultant
Parking coord, New York unit
Friday/Seezer legal & bus affairs
Legal consultant
Friday/Seezer security
Security
Spec thanks to
Travel agent
Bankers
Insurance
Insurance
Completion bond
Facilities provided by
Walkie talkies supplied by
Couriers
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Johnny stunt double
Stunts
Stunts
Utility stand-in
Utility stand-in
Utility stand-in
Utility stand-in, addl photog
Utility stand-in, addl photog
SOURCES
MUSIC
“Ezee Does It,” written by Beast/Michael Dwaine Wallace, published by Extreme Music Library plc, courtesy of Extreme Music Library plc
“Beach Bomb,” written by Kent Buchanon, published by Extreme Music Library plc, courtesy of Extreme Music Library plc
“La Bamba,” traditional, arranged by El Son, published by Extreme Music Library plc, courtesy of Extreme Music Library plc
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MUSIC
“Ezee Does It,” written by Beast/Michael Dwaine Wallace, published by Extreme Music Library plc, courtesy of Extreme Music Library plc
“Beach Bomb,” written by Kent Buchanon, published by Extreme Music Library plc, courtesy of Extreme Music Library plc
“La Bamba,” traditional, arranged by El Son, published by Extreme Music Library plc, courtesy of Extreme Music Library plc
“Stuck Together,” written by Freddie Funk, published by Extreme Music Library plc, courtesy of Extreme Music Library plc
“Flying Theme E.T.,“ by John Williams, composed by John Williams, published by Universal/MCA Music Ltd., courtesy of Universal Pictures
"Disco Inferno," words and music by Leroy Green and Tyrone G. Kersey, © 1977 Songs of DreamWorks (BMI), songs of DreamWorks administered by Cherry River Music Co. (BMI), administered outside of the United States by Peermusic III, Ltd., all rights reserved, used by permission
“When the Saints Go Marching In,” traditional
“Angel of the Morning,” written by C. Taylor, published by EMI Songs Ltd.
“The Fly,” composed by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter, published by EMI United Partnership Ltd.
"Red River Valley," from the motion picture The Grapes Of Wrath , composed by Alfred Newman, Edward Powell and Herbert Spencer, © 20th Century Fox, by kind permission Warner/Chappell Music Limited
“Finger of Suspicion” Pt.1, written by Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin, courtesy of Carlin Recorded Music Library
“See See My Playmate,” traditional.
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SONGS
“Aranci Daterri!,” from La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini, performed by La Scala Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Milan, conducted by Umberto Berretoni, licensed courtesy of HNH International Ltd.
“Cherry Coke & Pizza Pie,” performed by The Mutts, written by Hakan Akesson, courtesy of LoveCat Records, published by Big Tiger Music (BMI), by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group, “Arrow from My Heart,” written by Evan Olson, performed by Bus Stop, courtesy of LoveCat Records, published by Big Tiger Music (BMI), by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group
“Der Fischer,” performed by Aylish E. Kerrigan, Mezzosoprano, accompanied by Andreas Kersten, piano, composed by Franz Schubert, text by J. W. V. Goethe
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SONGS
“Aranci Daterri!,” from La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini, performed by La Scala Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Milan, conducted by Umberto Berretoni, licensed courtesy of HNH International Ltd.
“Cherry Coke & Pizza Pie,” performed by The Mutts, written by Hakan Akesson, courtesy of LoveCat Records, published by Big Tiger Music (BMI), by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group, “Arrow from My Heart,” written by Evan Olson, performed by Bus Stop, courtesy of LoveCat Records, published by Big Tiger Music (BMI), by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group
“Der Fischer,” performed by Aylish E. Kerrigan, Mezzosoprano, accompanied by Andreas Kersten, piano, composed by Franz Schubert, text by J. W. V. Goethe
“Quando M’en Vo’soletta,” from La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini, performed by La Scala Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Milan, soprano Tatiana Menotti, conducted by Umberto Berretoni, licensed courtesy of HNH International Ltd.
“Do You Believe in Magic,” performed by The Lovin’ Spoonful, written by John Sebastian, published by Robbins Music Corporation Ltd./EMI Music Publishing Ltd., licenced courtesy of Buddah Records/BMG U.K. & Ireland Ltd.
“Baby I’m Real,” performed by Kid Creole and The Coconuts, written by August Darnell, published by Ascot Music for the World, LoveCat Music and Jessica & Jonathan Music for USA & Canada, courtesy of Atoll Music and LoveCat Music, by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group
“La Cubanita,” performed by Los Niños De Sara, written by Antoine Santiago, Jean Motos, Ramon Campos & Antoine Contreras, published by Ascot Music for the World, LoveCat Music and Jessica & Jonathan Music for USA & Canada, courtesy of Atoll Music and LoveCat Music, by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group
“Stinky Stinky Ashtray,” performed by Damn!, written by Mans Block, Svante Loden and Mans Mernsten, courtesy of LoveCat Records, published by Big Tiger Music (BMI),by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group
“Karma Chameleon,” performed by Culture Club, written by G. O’Dowd, J. Moss, M. Craig, R. Hay and P. Pickett, published by EMI Virgin Music Ltd., 19 Music Ltd., BMG Music Ltd., licensed by courtesy of Virgin Records Limited
“Hold Me Tight,” performed by Caroldene, written by Bruce Elliot-Smith, Stephen Elliot-Smith and Mark Lord, courtesy of LoveCat Records, published by Big Tiger Music (BMI), by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group
“Tierra Del Fuego,” performed by The Langhorns, written by Michael Sellers, courtesy of LoveCat Records, published by Big Tiger Music (BMI), by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group
“Tempest,” performed and produced by Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke, written by Lisa Gerrard, Pieter Bourke and Madjid Khaladj, published by Universal/Momentum Music Ltd./Universal Music Publishing Ltd., licensed courtesy of 4AD Limited
"The Star-Spangled Banner," composer: traditional, arranged by Bob Singleton, performed by TNK--The Neighbor Kids, arranged and produced by Bob Singleton for Leap Entertainment and Singleton Productions, Inc., published by Leap Entertainment and Agnes Day Music, (BMI), © 2002 Leap Entertainment and Agnes Day Music, used by permission
“Desperado,” performed by Sarah Bolger, composed by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, © Cass County Music/Red Cloud Music/Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., by kind permission of Warner/Chappell Music Limited
“I Got Mad Words,” performed by Des Bishop, written by Des Bishop, administered by Sync Songs Ltd.
“Turn, Turn, Turn,” performed by The Byrds, written by Pete Seeger, published by Tro Essex Ltd., courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Cuando Salide Cuba,” performed by Gabriela y Rodrigo, written by Luis Aguilera, published by EMI United Partnership Ltd.
"Time Enough for Tears," performed by Andrea Corr, written by Bono, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer, recorded and mixed by Andrew Boland at Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin, produced by Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer, published by Blue Mountain Music UK and Universal/MCA Music Ltd., Andrea Corr appears courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corporation.
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PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
East of Harlem
Release Date:
26 November 2003
Premiere Information:
Toronto International Film Festival: 15 September 2002
Sundance Film Festival: 20 January 2003
AFI Fest: 7 November 2003
LA opening: 20 November 2003
Production Date:
21 August--8 November 2001 in Dublin and Ardmore Studios, Ireland and in New York
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
31 October 2003
Copyright Number:
PA0001152731
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby
Color
Lenses/Prints
Filmed with Panavision cameras and lenses on Kodak Film stock
Duration(in mins):
103
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Countries:
Ireland, United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
39306
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the summer of 1982, young Irish couple Johnny and Sarah Sullivan cross the border from Canada into the United States, hoping to start a new life in New York with their young daughters, Ariel and Christy, as they recover from the death of their four-year-old son Frankie. Although the Sullivans plan to live in New York, they do not have the proper visas and nervously hope that the American border guards will believe that they are just "on holiday." As the guards question the family, Christy thinks of a dream she had in which Frankie said that she could have three wishes, and uses the first by wishing that they could cross the border. After the family is waved ahead, they drive into New York and soon are entranced by the magic of the city's neon lights. With very little money, Johnny and Sarah have difficulty finding a place to live and wind up in a dilapidated apartment building inhabited by an assortment of tenants, including drug dealers and a mysterious man known as “the man who screams.” Although Sarah is a teacher, she is only able to get work as a waitress in “Heaven,” a nearby coffee shop. Johnny is an actor, but is unable to find work in the theater, despite attending numerous auditions. Undeterred by the hardships, the girls enjoy the bleak surroundings of their large, top floor apartment. The independent, older daughter, Christy, spends much of her time looking through the lens of a camcorder, both taking videos and watching those she had taken of Frankie and the family in happier days. As a heat ... +


In the summer of 1982, young Irish couple Johnny and Sarah Sullivan cross the border from Canada into the United States, hoping to start a new life in New York with their young daughters, Ariel and Christy, as they recover from the death of their four-year-old son Frankie. Although the Sullivans plan to live in New York, they do not have the proper visas and nervously hope that the American border guards will believe that they are just "on holiday." As the guards question the family, Christy thinks of a dream she had in which Frankie said that she could have three wishes, and uses the first by wishing that they could cross the border. After the family is waved ahead, they drive into New York and soon are entranced by the magic of the city's neon lights. With very little money, Johnny and Sarah have difficulty finding a place to live and wind up in a dilapidated apartment building inhabited by an assortment of tenants, including drug dealers and a mysterious man known as “the man who screams.” Although Sarah is a teacher, she is only able to get work as a waitress in “Heaven,” a nearby coffee shop. Johnny is an actor, but is unable to find work in the theater, despite attending numerous auditions. Undeterred by the hardships, the girls enjoy the bleak surroundings of their large, top floor apartment. The independent, older daughter, Christy, spends much of her time looking through the lens of a camcorder, both taking videos and watching those she had taken of Frankie and the family in happier days. As a heat wave continues, Johnny brings home an old air conditioner, which he eventually gets to work, but it immediately causes the building’s electricity to go out. The family then goes to an air-conditioned movie theater where they enjoy seeing E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial . After the movie, Ariel complains that she has no one to play with because Christy “tells her secrets” to the camcorder and Johnny does not play the way he did before Frankie died. Later, the family goes to a carnival where Johnny incrementally risks all of the family’s money on a game of chance to win an E.T. doll for Ariel. When Johnny bets all of their rent money on the doll, Christy thinks of Frankie and asks him to grant her second wish. Johnny then wins the doll and is able to keep his money, after which the elated family goes home. As they enter their apartment, Johnny is playing blind man’s bluff with the girls, when he suddenly stops, emotionally confessing to Sarah that he was looking for Frankie. Sarah then tells the children to go to her friend Marina at Heaven. Sarah conceives a child during her tender lovemaking with Johnny but afterward cries, blaming herself for Frankie’s fall down the stairs. Ariel and Christy attend a local Catholic school in the fall, while Johnny, who still has not gotten any acting jobs, begins working as a cab driver. On Halloween, Sarah makes the girls homemade costumes for a school pageant. The girls are the only children in school with homemade costumes, and when the nuns give the girls special awards for the best homemade costumes, Christy is angry, telling her parents that they only gave them the prize because they felt sorry for them. Later, the girls want to go trick-or-treating like American children, but Sarah and Johnny, fearing for their safety, insist that they stay within the apartment building. The only tenant who answers Ariel and Christy's knock at the door is the man who screams. When he sees the little girls, he looks up at Sarah and smiles, after which he invites the girls in. He tells them that his name is Mateo and allows them to look at his paintings. When he opens his refrigerator, the girls see a number of medications, then Ariel tells Mateo about Frankie, who died two years after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Mateo starts to cry and gives the girls a jar of change for their “treat.” That night, Sarah invites Mateo for dinner and serves Colcannon, a traditional Irish dish. Mateo gets a coin and a plastic ring buried in the dish, which the children say is a sign of very good luck. Johnny does not warm to Mateo as do the girls and Sarah, but nevertheless allows them to keep a painting of angels that Mateo has given the family. He also learns that Mateo is apparently well off and has a wife and a son. As Sarah’s pregnancy progresses, her doctor warns her that the baby cannot go to full-term as it would be very dangerous for both Sarah and the baby. Later, at the apartment, Sarah and Johnny argue when he accuses her of wanting to have another baby to replace Frankie, and she tells him that he cannot get any acting jobs because he cannot feel. When Johnny angrily leaves the apartment, Mateo sees him and asks why he does not “believe.” Johnny snarls that he once asked God for a favor, then accuses Mateo of being in love with Sarah. When Mateo answers that he is in love with everything that lives, Johnny realizes that he is dying and apologizes. After this, the family, even Johnny, becomes closer to Mateo. One night, when Mateo falls unconscious, Christy tries to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Although Ariel worries that Christy will get the terrible disease that Mateo has, Christy does not regret what she has done. As the cold winter months arrive, Mateo becomes weaker and is cared for by Sarah, Johnny and the children. Mateo jokes with the girls that he is an “alien” and, like E.T. , is going home, but promises to say goodbye. A short time later, Sarah goes into the hospital. While Johnny tries to take care of the girls and rehearse for an audition, he anguishes about the $5,000 that a hospital administrator says he will need “by Friday.” When Johnny tucks the girls in that night, Ariel worries about Johnny, who will not kneel down and say prayers with them. After Sarah and Johnny's baby girl is born, she desperately needs a blood transfusion. An hysterical Sarah lashes out at Johnny and screams that it was his fault that Frankie died because he insisted on putting a gate on the stairs, not realizing that the toddler would try to climb it and fall. She also says if the baby dies, she does not want to wake up. Because the baby needs O negative blood, Christy offers to be the donor. Although they are worried that she might have contracted Mateo's terrible disease, Christy is undaunted and tells her father that she has been carrying the family on her back for over a year, then asks why no one noticed. As Johnny leaves the hospital, the administrator walks past him and says “your check bounced.” Johnny then goes to another hospital, where Mateo is near death. Johnny confesses to Mateo that after Frankie died he promised he would never cry again, then returns to the apartment building where he has a violent scuffle with a homeless man to whom he had been giving money. The next day, the baby awakens and has passed the crisis, but at the same time, Mateo dies. Later, when Johnny goes to talk to the hospital administrator about the bill, which has grown to over $30,000, she tells him that it was paid by Mateo. As Christy had promised Mateo, they name the baby after him, Sarah Mateo Sullivan. At the baby’s baptismal party, because Ariel is sad that Mateo never said goodbye, Johnny decides to take her onto the fire escape and show her the moon, telling her that if she looks closely, she will see Mateo waving as he rides past the moon on his bicycle, just like E.T. When Ariel calls out “look after Frankie,” Johnny starts to cry as he, too, says goodbye to Frankie, fulfilling Christy’s third wish. Sarah and Johnny then embrace, and Christy switches off her camcorder because she now only wants to remember Frankie in her head. +

Legend
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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.