Irish immigrants discover much to love ‘In America’

Kyle Smith

There’s a big difference between sentiment and “sentimental.”

Your average Hollywood love story is full of the sentimental: moments of sickening overindulgence and obvious rhetoric promoting a message it feels its audience is too dumb to understand. Think “Titanic.”

Sentiment, however, is an abstract feeling of emotional strength. In movies, we recognize the sentimental, but we feel sentiment.

The Irish writer/director Jim Sheridan’s (“My Left Foot”) latest film, “In America,” is predicated entirely on sentiment. Its significant flaws are more than redeemed by its obsession with the human element and its deft exploration of the modern immigrant experience.

“In America’s” exposition is terribly familiar. Young Irish parents Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (Samantha Morton), come to America shortly after the death of their son Frankie with their two daughters Christy and Ariel (Sarah and Emma Bolger) .

Arriving amidst the color of New York City (cue the obligatory faces-out-the-window-gazing-at-neon-lights montage) with nothing but their rundown station wagon, they find a enormous fixer-upper in an apartment complex populated by addicts and an intimidating artist Mateo (Djimon Hounsou).

It’s all been done before before, and with the cringe-factor peaking during the film’s sex scene — shamelessly intercutting between the climax and a crackling thunderstorm — “In America” almost feels like a cheap “I