It took me a year to have the opportunity to see James Gray’s “The Immigrant,” but the film was worth the wait. What a shame that it has been seemingly buried in the United States, and Canada. (A Toronto friend told me it was actually released in Buffalo before Toronto. That never happens!)
I’m not sure why exactly the film has been treated so poorly. It is the newest work from a critically acclaimed director, stars an Oscar winner (Marion Cotillard) and two former nominees (Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner), was shown to some acclaim at Cannes, and, at the very least, should be attractive to anyone who with even the slightest bit of interest in 20th century American history.
“The Immigrant” takes its time, plunging the viewer into Ellis Island and then letting events play out. It is anchored by the lovely Cotillard’s latest great performance, as Ewa, an immigrant seeking to reunite with her sister, who has been detained due to illness. Phoenix is the slightly seedy businessman who “saves” Ewa, but pushes her into prostitution. Renner is a charming magician perennially at odds with Phoenix’s Bruno.
It is a stunningly photographed, moving story of survival, and one that grows stronger upon contemplation. Its last shot might be the most memorable and perfectly composed of 2014.
But good luck seeing it at a theater near you. Hopefully, it will arrive soon on DVD/etc., and receive the audience it deserves.