Golden Door

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Golden Door

Director: Emanuele Crialese
Writer: Emanuele Crialese
Cinematographer: Agnès Godard
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vincenzo Amato, Aurora Quattrocchi, Francesco Casisa, Filippo Pucillo
Studio/Running Time: Miramax, 120 min.

“We come on a ship we call the Mayflower.
We come on a ship that sailed the moon.
We come at the age’s most uncertain hour.
And sing the American tune.”
-Paul Simon “American Tune”

With help from acclaimed cinematographer Agnès Godard, Italian writer/director Emanuele Crialese has created a beautiful film about a Sicilian family’s emigration to early 20th century America when Ellis Island was processing thousands of old world citizens each day.

Believing in grand stories of money trees, giant crops and rivers of milk, Sicilian peasant Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) takes his two sons and mother on an epic journey to a new land. Their ignorance is only surpassed by the U.S. immigration authorities who believe that physical and mental handicaps can be spread genetically, resulting in the stringent examination of new arrivals before allowing them into the country. While traveling, Salvatore meets the mysterious and proper English woman Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and a strange, mutually beneficial relationship ensues.

It’s the little things that make Golden Door so likable—watching as grown men receive their first real shoes and proper clothes, seeing the wonder of the ocean and indoor plumbing through an old woman’s eyes, witnessing how these desperate newcomers will endure most anything to get into America. Crialese does not delve too deeply into the background of the film’s characters, and there are times he should. But he chooses to reveal through facial expressions, along with clothing and individual mannerisms while never telling us too much. And perhaps that’s the point. We see the immigrants as they see each other—a mystery to be discovered, not unlike the world they are entering.