Rating: PG-13 for brief graphic nudity
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vincenzo Amato, Aurora Quattrocchi
Director: Emanuele Crialese
Recommended for: dads and kids
Age Groups: 13 years and above
Running Time: 120 minutes
Release Date: 25th May 2007
Language: Italian film with English subtitles
Children’s adventures often show characters entering unfamiliar places searching for secrets and dreams, places that will forever be linked in their mind with myth and fantasy. But what if history too showed a magical place? A place called America. There was a time in the early 20th century when America was the ‘New World’ for those on the outside and coming into this world was a magical experience—both painful and surprising.
The Golden Door is an epic visual tale, depicting the struggles, hopes, and aspirations immigrants brought with them to America. The plot revolves around an immigrant Sicilian family, which comes to Ellis Island seeking entrance into the United States. It’s a story told in three parts.
The first part shows the family’s difficult preparation for the journey ahead. America here is amusingly depicted as a land of giant vegetables where money grows on trees. The preparations end with a beautiful, sophisticated and English-speaking woman named Lucy unexpectedly harboring herself with the family.
The second part is the voyage from Italy across the Atlantic. Intense scenes follow which may be disturbing for children younger than thirteen. This part includes deaths on board and violent scenes of hostility among the passengers.
The third and final portion lands the family on Ellis Island. This part is an accurate and edifying introduction to the cruel trials that immigrant families faced: the battery of tests, subjection to the humiliating ideology of eugenics, and the pairing up of men and women for wedding ceremonies.
Dads can talk about the contemporary immigrant experience in America and get older kids to participate in a vigorous and important debate.
The director, Emanuele Crialese, is to be commended for his lush yet realistic production style; he has managed to shoot a domestic tale in grand operatic style. The film ultimately ends with the family passing the “golden door” to the new world with those who fail held in custody. That element lends a universal appeal to the film, making it ideal for family viewing.