In America, Jim Sheridan's semi-autobiographical masterwork -- cowritten with his daughters Naomi and Kirsten -- follows an immigrant Irish family's struggle to lay their painful memories of a child's death to rest while building a new life in New York. Ten-year-old Christy (Sarah Bolger) narrates her travails with little sister Ariel (Emma Bolger, Sarah's real-life sibling) and their parents, struggling-actor dad Johnny (Paddy Considine) and mom Sarah (Samantha Morton). The foursome's dire financial situation lends a horror-movie level of suspense to everyday occurrences like lugging an air conditioner across town in a heat wave or betting every cent on a carnival game to win Ariel a doll. Their friendship with a loner neighbor (Djimon Hounsou) grazes cliché territory but never crosses over thanks to richly layered performances from the entire cast, Oscar-nominated (Hounsou and Morton) or not.
EXTRAS Sheridan's commentary is enlightening, deleted scenes are better with his audio track, but the making-of featurette doesn't provide much insight.