By Matt Passantino
The Immigrant marks director James Gray’s fifth feature film. Four of those five films have starred Joaquin Phoenix. The Immigrant is the most successful outing from the pair and one of the year’s strongest films.
Marion Cotillard stars as Ewa. She and her sister are set to come to America from Poland, when her sister is detained with a lung disease. Ewa is heartbroken her sister cannot accompany her but still continues on without her. She meets Bruno (Phoenix), who Ewa thinks will give her a good life and opportunities in America. She finds out that Bruno runs a prostitution ring and she is forced into his business to make the money she needs to send to her sister.
The premise of The Immigrant may seem bleak, but the film is quite enjoyable. The film is aesthetically flawless, with shots giving a smoky presence to particular scenes. Coupled with moments of melodrama, without ever going over the top, The Immigrant is a great throwback to the classic films of the Golden Age of Cinema. All of the style never takes away from the substance of the story, which is as heartbreaking as it is hopeful.
The performances are universally sound. Cotillard, since her Oscar win for La Vie En Rose, has continued to become one of the great working actresses. She specializes in roles like Ewa. Her performance is reminiscent of her role in the under-seen Rust and Bone; she is an actresses not afraid to take on challenging characters and envelop us in the lives of who she is portraying. Jeremy Renner co-stars as Orlando, a magician, who brings moments of levity to the film.
The Immigrant will take you by surprise by how deeply involving it is and how invested you become. For two hours, you will be immersed in the gritty underbelly of 1920s Manhattan.