1921: Ewa (Marion Cotillard) and her ill sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan) arrive in the USA at the Ellis Island immigration centre after fleeing post WWI Poland in “pursuit of happiness”.
Director James Gray bases The Immigrant partly on the experience of his grandparents who immigrated to the USA in 1923, and seems to have faithfully evoked the New York of that time.
Cotillard as Ewa looks beautiful, demure and vulnerable, and she needs protection from the exploitation of Joaquin Phoenix’s sinister Bruno, who gets her a job at the Bandit’s Roost, first as a dancer, then as a prostitute. The protection comes in the form of Bruno’s cousin Emil (Jeremy Renner) who – like Bruno – swiftly falls in love with her. Naturally this causes tension between the men.
Ultimately, The Immigrant is a reminder of the value of courage and persistence in the face of life’s vicissitudes. (MMu)
**1/2 / 5
BY MICHAEL MUIR