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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

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DVD Review: The Golden Door

THE beauty of watching foreign-language films is that you really do have to watch them. You need to become fully immersed in the script and the story or you run the risk of losing the plot. Literally.

However, so little happens in Italian film The Golden Door that, even without the subtitles, you could follow the plot even if your command of the Italian language, like mine, goes no further than the menu at the Casa Romana.

That isn’t to say it’s a bad film – it’s not – it’s just that it is so gentle you spend the whole film waiting for something to happen, and when it finally does, the film ends.

The Golden Door is a tale of an Italian family’s immigration to America in the late 19th or early 20th century. The sense of time and place is captured perfectly. The Italy portrayed in the early part of the film is exactly as you imagine it – the starkness of the rural landscape compared with bustling and dusty little towns.

Salvatore Mancuso is gathering his family together – his mother and two sons, one of whom is mute – for the journey through the golden door to the States. He exchanges his animals for some smart clothes to dress his children in for the trip, and joins hundreds on the boat to a better life.

The journey is long and arduous, but Salvatore’s aspirations are raised by meeting Lucy, an English woman with a mysterious past, and they come to a tentative agreement to a marriage of convenience when they reach America.

On their arrival, the dehumanising process the family is subjected to is probably the most interesting aspect of the film. The almost auction-like way the women are paired off with wealthy Americans, and the tests the Italians must pass before they are deemed acceptable bring the high hopes down with a bump. And when the mute son and the mother are denied entry and face deportation, Salvatore is faced with an impossible choice.

In terms of plot, The Golden Door is a non-event. The mysterious history of Lucy is not explored at all and Salvatore is not a particularly interesting lead character.

The characters’ hopes for their new lives could also be developed further while we see them on the long drawn-out journey. But what it lacks in plot, it makes up for in style and atmosphere.

I feel The Golden Door is an enjoyable if not a particularly memorable watch, that you can’t help feel is somewhat of a missed opportunity.


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