THE IMMIGRANT

"God’s Salvation Brings Deliverance from Sin"

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Summary:

THE IMMIGRANT is an impressive production about a Catholic immigrant woman from Poland in 1921 who’s forced into prostitution to save her sick sister stuck in the Ellis Island hospital. Very well acted, THE IMMIGRANT has a redemptive, uplifting ending brought about by prayer, but extreme caution is advised because of strong foul language, some explicit nudity and references to prostitution.

Review:

THE IMMIGRANT is an impressive production about a Catholic immigrant woman from Poland in 1921 who makes some poor moral decisions to help her sister, who’s stuck in the Ellis Island hospital. The woman ultimately finds redemption and freedom through her Christian faith, but the movie contains sordid material and graphic language, so extreme caution is advised. The filmmakers could have made their content less graphic and gotten a bigger audience for their movie.

The movie opens on Ellis Island. Eva and her sick sister, Magda, from Poland are standing in line to get the okay to enter the city, New York. They’re supposed to stay at their aunt and uncle’s house. However, Magda has a cough that could be tuberculosis. The guards tell Eva that Magda must stay at the hospital to see if she gets better. There’s an even worse problem: gossip has spread that, on the voyage to America, Eva prostituted herself (the truth, revealed later, is that she was raped). The guard tells Eva she will be deported.

Eva’s “savior” arrives in the form of a man named Bruno. He bribes the guard to let him take her into the city. Bruno gives her a place to stay with a woman and her daughter. Bruno says Eva can earn her keep by sewing things. Eva learns that Bruno has a stable of girls who perform in a burlesque show in the neighborhood. Sewing their costumes is, apparently, part of the work Eva can do for Bruno. However, it’s clear that Bruno pimps out most, if not all, the girls in his show.

Eva runs away to her aunt and uncle, but the uncle learns of the rumors about her on the ship to America. A respected businessman, Eva’s uncle turns her into the police.

Back at Ellis Island, Eva tries to see her sister but fails. On the island, the authorities present a stage show for the immigrants stuck there. One of the acts is a clever magician named Orlando whose real name is Emil.

Bruno visits Eva at Ellis Island. He informs her that he can get her but again, but she must perform in his burlesque show. She can be one of the girls who don’t appear nude, he says, but he informs her that, if she really wants to earn the money to bribe the Ellis Island officials to let her sister go, she will have to do certain “things” she won’t want to do.

Eva begins to prostitute herself for Bruno, but only if he gives her half the money. It turns out that Orlando the magician aka Emil is actually Bruno’s cousin. Bruno got Emil the show at Ellis Island, though he really doesn’t get along with his brother. Though Eva is ashamed by what she has to do to earn her sister’s freedom from Ellis Island, Emil says he doesn’t judge her. Emil begins to fall in love with Eva, but so has Bruno. This leads to intense conflict between the cousins.

Will Emil save Eva from the degradation to which Bruno has enslaved her? Will Bruno realize what he’s done and repent, even if Eva cannot love him? Finally, will Eva renew her faith and find the strength to escape this situation and help her sister? Or, is her situation hopeless?

THE IMMIGRANT is a moving drama, despite the sordid subject matter involved in the heroine’s situation. It becomes clear that Eva wants to renew her faith and find a better way to save both herself and her sister. In one scene, a priest tells her in the confessional booth that she must get away from Bruno, but she realizes only a miracle from God can help her do that and save her and her sister. Otherwise, she can see no way out and fears she will be condemned to Hell.

Without giving everything away, the ending of THE IMMIGRANT shows clearly, but in a somewhat symbolic way, not just in a real way, that Christian faith in God leads to salvation and freedom, but that a sinful life leads to an impoverished life of psychological imprisonment, a figurative Hell if not a literal one. The heroine prays to Mary in two scenes. In the second scene, however, she also overtly prays to God in the name of the Holy Trinity. At the end, it appears that God has indeed answered her prayers.

THE IMMIGRANT is superbly acted. Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner are captivating as Eva, Bruno and Emil. Cotillard brilliantly plays the conflicted Eva who only wants to help free her sister so that she can be the woman Eva cannot be. Phoenix plays Bruno as the theatrical impresario he imagines himself to be. Bruno clearly thinks of himself as an artist when he creates extravagant scenarios for the women on the burlesque stage. Of course, Bruno is also their pimp, but he excuses that part of his behavior as just the things one has to do to earn a living in New York. Meanwhile, Renner plays Bruno’s cousin as a truly kind man who really wants to help Eva escape her situation, but whose schemes don’t always work out for the best. As the drama between these three people plays out, the movie manages to put viewers on the edge of their seats.

Although THE IMMIGRANT has a redemptive ending, along the way, there is some strong foul language, some explicit nudity and violence. The two scenes implying the heroine’s prostitution at the hands of Bruno are only implied scenes. Thus, no sex is depicted. However, the movie makes it clear that the heroine’s quest to get the money to liberate her sister has made her a hardnosed businesswoman, especially when it comes to getting part of Bruno’s earnings. Despite that, the heroine realizes her actions are sending her on a downward spiral to Hell. She tells that to the priest after he tells her she must get away from Bruno. Since she can’t figure out a way to do that, she recognizes her destination will be Hell. In the end, however, she gets the strength to find a way to regain her salvation and the freedom from sin for which she longs. Or, at least, that’s what the last scene strongly suggests.

The movie treats the heroine’s faith seriously. It also shows the priest to be a wise, sympathetic character in the short time he appears. Also, the magician truly tries to help the heroine, though, eventually, [SPOILER] he fails. This content, coupled with the redemptive ending, gives THE IMMIGRANT a Christian worldview. The movie is marred, however, by the foul language and some explicit nudity. So, extreme caution is advised for THE IMMIGRANT.

Content:

(CC, B, PaPa, FR, L, V, S, NN, AA, D, MM) Strong Christian worldview where salvation brings deliverance from sin, with light moral elements, but set in a dark, corrupt world with female Catholic protagonist praying to Mary the mother of God twice but the second prayer occurs in a church and includes an appeal to God in the name of the Holy Trinity, prayer and confession extolled, woman confesses her sins and priest tells her she needs to get away from evil man corrupting her, an acknowledgement of Hell, forgiveness extolled, and troubled sinful man confesses he was deceitful to woman all along, but marred by strong pagan content and some antinomianism where bribery solves a plot problem; six “f” words and two or three light profanities; light violence includes men fight, man stabbed to death, policemen beat up man; woman forced into prostitution, women expose their breasts onstage, father takes 15-year-old son to prostitute to “make a man” of him and scene ends with boy reaching his hand to touch the woman’s hand, prostitute in bed says goodbye to client in room, woman says men forced themselves on her when she was traveling in crowded place on boat to America, and man announcing burlesque show places a hand under one woman’s breast to excite customers; shots of upper female nudity in women’s bath room and when women expose themselves onstage; alcohol use and drunkenness; smoking; and, deceit, bribery, bribe solves a plot problem, government corruption.

In Brief:

THE IMMIGRANT is an impressive production about a Catholic immigrant woman from Poland in 1921. Eva and her sister, Magda, arrive at Ellis Island, but Magda is put into the hospital there, and Eva is scheduled for deportation because of a false rumor about her. A man named Bruno bribes a guard to free Eva, but he forces her into his prostitution ring of burlesque performers. Bruno’s cousin, Emil, is much nicer. He tries to help the beautiful Eva. Both men have fallen in love with her, and the tension mounts. Eva needs money to free her sister from Ellis Island, but can she find a better way to get it?

THE IMMIGRANT is a moving, superbly acting drama, despite the sordid subject matter. With nowhere left to turn, Eva turns to God and asks Him to help her and her sister. The result is a redemptive, uplifting ending with a great final image of the differences between redemption and damnation. Despite this, extreme caution is advised for THE IMMIGRANT because of strong foul language, explicit nudity and the references to prostitution.