Italian writer-director Emanuele Crialese is best known for the art-house piffle Respiro (2002), a sun-kissed fairy tale that didn't prepare me for the weight and solidity of this historical drama about a Sicilian peasant family immigrating to the U.S. The folkloric tone that seemed so pretentious in the earlier movie is powerfully effective here, as Crialese conveys the dark superstitions of the Old World and the family's absurd fantasies about the new one (lakes of fresh milk, vegetables as big as people). Production designer Carlos Conti and cinematographer Agnes Godard persuasively re-create the cramped and dangerous ocean voyage that brings the Sicilians to Ellis Island, where the Statue of Liberty is obscured by mist and the single women are paired off with their arranged American husbands like boxes of groceries. With Vincenzo Amato and Charlotte Gainsbourg. In Italian with subtitles. PG-13, 118 min.
By J.R. Jones