In America

Screenplay by Jim Sheridan (director) & Naomi Sheridan & Kirsten Sheridan

Studio: Fox Searchlight (released Nov. 26)

Screenplay: Jim Sheridan (director) & Naomi Sheridan & Kirsten Sheridan

Category: Original

Storyline: Irish emigres Johnny and Sarah (Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton) along with their two daughters (Sarah and Emma Bolger) come to Manhattan to start a new life in a rundown tenement where, despite the anguish of dealing with the recent death of their son, hope for a brighter future also resides.

About the script: Intensely personal, somewhat autobiographical script by Jim Sheridan and his now-grown daughters skillfully and movingly walks the line between laughter and pathos, resulting in a unique coming-of-age scenario too smart to ever cross into maudlin remembrance. “After ‘In the Name of the Father’ I decided to put myself on the line,” says Sheridan. “I was inspired by James Joyce, who always got very close to himself. Irish people are like that. We want to go into the very personal side of things. I felt strong enough as a filmmaker to expose myself.”

Biggest challenge: “Because the story was so close to myself it had the danger of megalomania, and of being just a series of episodes. The first way out was that I asked my daughters to write it, and they eliminated my character and wrote entirely about themselves. My eldest daughter had a voiceover, which I thought was a fascinating idea. Although the story is simple, the complexity of having two points of view — the father’s and the daughter’s — is very hard. The biggest challenge became finding a theme.”

Breakthrough idea: “Once my daughters had finished with it, I still didn’t have a story, so I decided to put in the story of my younger brother who died. But I wanted to put him in as my son. Once you fictionalize your own life, you find other stories reveal themselves that are deeper than what the surface is telling you.”

Favorite scene: When the daughter says she has been carrying the family on her back. “That was the most emotionally powerful scene for me because it’s what I felt when my brother died, not only what I felt, but the way I lived my life. That scene is kind of me as a child, and that’s always more powerful than one of you as an adult.”

Lines we love: In bed with husband Johnny, a still-grieving Sarah is in tears thinking about their dead son: “Frankie had your eyes, Johnny.”

Recognition to date: Audience award, 2003 AFI Film Festival; best original screenplay, National Board of Review; Ten best of the year list, AFI; six Independent Spirit Award nominations, including feature and director.

Writer’s bio: Jim Sheridan earned Oscar noms for writing and directing for both “My Left Foot” and “In the Name of the Father.” He has also written and directed “The Boxer” and “The Field,” and has several other writing and producing credits. Kirsten Sheridan directed the award-winning “Disco Pigs” and has written several screenplays, including “Honor Bright.” Naomi Sheridan has written two other feature films and directed a documentary on the Irish soccer team at the 2002 World Cup.

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