An American Rhapsody (review)

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Not too many movies touch me so much that I need to retreat to somewhere private and sob my eyes out — this was one of them. Enormously poignant, this intimate tale of one family’s immigration from Hungary to the United States accents how the yearning for freedom can cause the deepest pain, and how “mistakes [made] out of love” can haunt a lifetime. Margit (Nastassja Kinski: The Claim) and Peter (Tony Goldwyn: Bounce) were high-class in Budapest — now, in 1950s Los Angeles, he works as an airplane mechanic and she, a waitress. But the worst of it is that they were forced to leave their infant daughter Suzanne behind. When they are finally able to get her out, she is 6 years old (played by the sweetly sad Kelly Endresz-Banlaki) and shattered by the separation from the adoptive parents she adores. Even the passage of a decade cannot assuage her grief, and as a teen (now portrayed hauntingly by Scarlett Johansson: Ghost World), her return visit to Hungary to find her past is unbearably melancholy, for her and for the audience. Written and directed by Éva Gárdos (in a lovely debut) and based on her own life story, this is, indeed, a uniquely American rhapsody — I know people who have immigration stories like this. This is the heartbreak that built this country, and that people would endure it to make themselves a better life inspires nothing but awe in me.

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