Immigrant: Starring Marion Cotillard

the_immigrant_posterJames Gray’s “The Immigrant” world-premiered last year at the 2013 Cannes Film Fest to mixed critical response, and now a year later, the film is getting limited theatrical release in the U.S.

Though they are very different directors, Gray, like Abel Ferrara, is much popular in Europe, especially in France, than at his home.

Gray’s work has always divided critics, from his splashy debut two decades ago.

Despite various shortcomings, at least two things are clear, Gray is good at casting and he is even better at coaxing deeply committed and intensely emotional performances from his stars. (Gray likes to work with established talent)

The new saga, co-written by James Gray, Ric Menello, and Barry Shurchin, is an exercise in realism.

Gallic actress Marion Cotillard plays Ewa Cybulski, who along with her sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan), sail to New York from their native Poland in search of a new start and a taste (if not share) of the American dream.

When they reach Ellis Island, doctors discover that Magda is ill, and the two women are separated. Ewa is forced to live in the mean streets of Manhattan, while her sister is quarantined.

From that point on, the tale becomes a realistically detailed portraiture of survival.

With nowhere to turn or to rely on, and desperate to reunite with Magda, Ewa falls prey to Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), a charming but wicked man who takes her in but forces her into prostitution.

Things change, when Orlando (Jeremy Renner), a stage magician who is also Bruno’s cousin, arrives and a relationship between him and Ewa begins. Gradually, Orlando is able to restores Ewa’s beliefs and hopes for a brighter future, by representing her only chance to escape her present nightmare.

I have always found Gray’s film to be thematically old-fashioned, though to his credit, it should be noted that he is an iconic director, who doesn’t belong to–or follow–any cinematic tradition.  You can’t compare The Immigrant to any America independent film playing right now.

MPAA: PG-13

Running time: 120 minutes