Almost America

Much like the United States, Canada is a country of immigrants. In Almost America we follow a family as they leave Italy behind in hopes of a better future on this side of the Atlantic. It got an international release a few years ago, but is scheduled to open here later in 2005.

The film begins in sometime soon after World War II. We meet Antonia (Sabrina Ferilli), her sister Paola, and her two children Matteo (Cosimo Bani) and Annina (Veronica Niccolai).

Their village is flooded as Antonia is delivering a neighborhood child. Antonia decides this is a sign to move to Canada where her husband Vincenzo (Tony Nardi) had moved some time before to try and establish a new life and home for his family. Paola has a tearful goodbye with her lover as he promises to follow when he saves the money.

Upon arriving in Canada the family struggles to communicate. An Italian truck driver Mario (Massimo Ghini) helps them out but unable to locate Vincenzo they end up in a camp where unemployed immigrants reside.

Antonia soon discovers that her husband has remarried a Canadian woman and has a newborn baby. She refuses to move back to Canada and gets a job at a physical plant with her sister the children start school. Matteo feels ostracized by all the English speaking children and turns rebellious.

Paola and Antonia convince a local merchant to open up an Italian restaurant, which takes off. The family moves in an apartment next door as the sisters work as waitresses. Things seem to be looking up.

However, Paola discovers she’s pregnant and gets an illegal abortion. The procedure goes badly and though Antonia was a midwife back in Italy she is unable to help her sister. A doctor (Henry Czerny) is summoned but it’s too late as Paola succumbs.

Matteo runs afoul of the law and ends up in a juvenile detention center for 4 years. Meanwhile Antonia goes back to school and becomes a registered nurse. She and Annina move into their own house. Mario reappears having made a fortune in trucking.

However he wants to try to make further investments in mining, but not before taking mother and daughter to see a nearly full grown Matteo (Dominic Zamprogna). He still resents his mother for moving them, and the visit ends at an awkward state.

Mario and Antonia finally declare their emotions towards each other as he leaves for the mines. Back home Antonia and the Doctor from earlier begin courtship of sorts. She puts an end to it and hears that Mario died in a mine accident.

Meanwhile Matteo gets out and finds his dad. The two talk about immigration and family. Matteo realizes his father is neither evil, nor good. He’s just rather pathetic. He goes back home where he forgives his mother.

The film is well acted overall. Ghini especially brings life to the piece whenever he’s onscreen. Technical aspects of the film varied, but standouts included the costumes by Wendy Partridge and FranÃ?§ois SÃ?©guin’s art direction.

The score was distracting and at times irritating. Overall the film was too episodic and at times bordered on being melodramatic. The immigrant story has been done better in other films (Avalon, In America). This is definitely a wait for video type of film.

** out of ****

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