WARNING: There are spoilers in this review that give away key elements of the film. If you have any intention of seeing this film, avoid reading this review. Unfortunately, one of the major problems with the film involves a so-called critical moment and avoiding discussion of it would be contradictory to the Mr. Cranky mission statement and piss off our investors something fierce.
Director Jim ("My Left Foot") Sheridan sets us up from the very beginning of this film as Irish Johnny (Paddy Considine) crosses the U.S. border with his family: wife Sarah (Samantha Morton) and daughters Christy (Sarah Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger). The border patrol agent asks them how many children they have. Sarah says "two" and Johnny says "three" and we quickly learn that they've lost their little boy and are making a fresh start in America.
At this point, if you're smart, you'll get your Kleenex out because it's obvious that this family is not done suffering. If you're Mr. Cranky, however, you're content to blow snot all over the old couple sitting in front of you who won't stop talking about how cute the two girls are.
Sheridan drops a ton of crap on these people: They move into a drug-infested building. Their downstairs neighbor, Mateo (Djimon Hounsou) is a scary black man who screams a lot. Johnny, who's an actor, can't get a job. So what does living in unemployed squalor mean to two lovely Catholics from Ireland? That's right, you guessed it: Have another child. Sarah gets pregnant, encounters complications, and goes into the hospital. Some might construe this as God's curse on two serial breeders who can't support the kids they already have and can't be bothered to stop ejecting offspring onto the planet long enough to learn how a condom works -- or maybe that's just me.
Here's the problem: It's pretty obvious that given everything that's happened to this family, Sheridan isn't about to slam them with a $30,000 hospital bill, thus ending the film on that high note. How's that bill going to get paid? Well, when the girls finally meet Mateo and find out that he's a sweet-as-can-be artist dying of AIDS (or so we assume), it's pretty clear that the only resolution that will keep viewers from killing themselves is for Mateo to leave the money for the hospital bill after he dies.
It's a really lovely story, except if you're one of the unlucky Irish families with huge medical bills who didn't meet the sweet-hearted African who left you a buttload of money after he croaked. For you, things still really suck and America isn't all it's cracked up to be.
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