The Immigrant

Monday 13 October 2014
By Peter W. Sheehan, Kairos Catholic Journal
THIS American drama was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and has been the recipient of awards at other international film festivals for best actress and best director. It tells the story of a Catholic immigrant, Ewa Cybulska (Marion Cotillard), and her sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan) who sailed from Poland to New York in 1921 in search of a better way of life. Both have fled war and deprivation, but their dream goes tragically wrong. The film partially uses subtitles, though it is voiced in English.

Reaching New York, Magda and Ewa arrive at Ellis Island, where Magda is quarantined with a lung disease in an immigration infirmary. Ewa is put in a holding pattern for deportation for rumoured bad behaviour on the voyage, but is noticed by Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), who runs a brothel out of a burlesque theatre, called Bandit’s Roost. Desperate to stay, Ewa accepts the help of Bruno, who bribes an officer to prevent her from being deported. Money is needed for the release of her sister from Ellis Island, and eager to earn what is required to help her sister, Ewa allows Bruno to use her as a prostitute.

With time, Bruno falls in love with Ewa. Emil (Jeremy Renner), Bruno’s cousin and a theatrical illusionist, is also smitten with Ewa. Emil and Bruno eventually fight over Ewa. Through this romantic tension, the director explores the themes of love, death and morality. The film ends with an unexpected and powerful twist, showing the power of sacrifice in an otherwise loveless world.

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