Set at the beginning of the 20th century we travel to impoverished Sicily where we meet Salvatore (Vincezo Amato - `Respiro') and his family. They are struggling to survive and like a lot of fellow Europeans he is considering going to the New World, which flows with milk and honey and money grows on trees. He has an elderly mother who doubles as some sort of healer, and two sons in the shape of Angelo and Pietro.
After a sign from on high they decide to go for it and head off to the ferry to get a third class ticket to America. This is where red headed siren Lucy Reed (Charlotte Gainsbourg) comes into the picture. She needs a man to get her through the tests at Ellis Island and she decides he is the one. Along the way there is a lot of social history and some well observed attention to detail.
Director Emanuele Crialese (`Respiro' and Terrafirma') also uses a lot of surrealist imagery to exemplify how the propaganda of the US was such a pull factor that really most of the émigrés could never have made a logical decision. There are oversized vegetables, coins in trees and falling from the skies and a river of milk.
This is a beautifully shot film with Sicily having an austere beauty and the filth and dirt being omnipresent until they reach New York. The immigration system is also done extremely well and the plight of these people is palpable. I really enjoyed this film but it won't be to everybody's taste as there is little action, no bedroom diversions and no overly dramatic occasions. Yet still it tells a story that thousands will have had to go through and there are no monuments to their sufferings or struggle so I think this film has a special place in the world of cinema. In Italian and a bit of English with good translations and a run time of 118 minutes - a film I can readily recommend.