John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

The Immigrant

Genre: Drama

Director: James Gray, Richard Menello

Cast: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, Dagmara Dominczyk, Angela Sarafyan

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: May 16th, 2014

“The American dream is waiting for you, Sildenafil
” states Orlando (Jeremy Renner) the Magician in the new drama, cheap
The Immigrant. At the time he says this, stomach
Orlando is entertaining a group of recently-arrived immigrants on Ellis Island in 1921. Like many of his tricks, the dream he speaks of appears as an illusion to Ewa Cybulska (Marion Cotillard), a recent Polish immigrant who is quickly overpowered by her painful experiences in the United States.

During the boat ride to the country for one, Ewa faced the first of many tortuous experiences (the specific details of which are laid out late in the story). When she finally arrives in New York, she is criticized for her “low morals” and her sickly sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan) is whisked away for health concerns leaving Ewa alone in a new world.

Getting to America may have sounded like a dream to Ewa but arriving on its shores quickly becomes a nightmare for her.

With her soft-spoken elegance and firm resolve, Cotillard delivers a great performance. At times, her character could simply become a victim of her circumstances but the actress delivers much much more. Ewa is hurt and damaged but she still recognizes the painful reality of the situation. She knows that America can still fulfill her dreams but also recognizes what she must do to eventually escape the painful reality that at first encircles her like a shark circling its prey.

“I like money but I don’t like you,” she says at one point to one of those sharks— a sleazeball performer named Bruno Weiss (Joaquain Phoenix). Bruno wants Ewa to perform in his shows but also forces her into prostitution. She begrudgingly accepts the situation. Underneath her circumstances and her fragile facade though, she is tough and knows what she wants.

Throughout the picture, director James Gray often covers her in shadows cloaking her with dark colors in this bleak world. Her face though often shines bright through the darkness  showing that although she has little when she arrives here (she has no money at first and even begins stealing) but she still has hope. Many of the other members of the cast are presented in lighter colors—such as Orlando. Renner’s character may have a sad and transient life but he knows where his next meal will come from. He knows that he will survive.

Ewa knows neither of those things. She simply knows how to exist.

As the story continues, it presents each of these three main characters as three-dimensional figures  showing them at their weakest moments and in a more noble light. Some of the characters can be described as villainous but much more seems to be at stake here. Casts of shadow exist for each of them and it’s painful to realize that some of the worst characters here have some noble ideals, despite their disgusting behavior.

The Immigrant bursts with the complications of life in 1921 and shows what life must’ve been like for immigrants to this country who chose to remain here even when their circumstances were defined by external forces. It offers up a strong and painful story and an absolutely magnetic performance by Ms. Cotillard.

Review by: John Hanlon