Crialese’s third feature adds an authentic looking and thoroughly researched drama to the genre of the migration film. In three sections that can easily be distinguished from each other - the country of birth, the great journey and the destination - Golden Door shows the transition of a poor Sicilian family from the old world to the new, and from a deeply rooted superstition to cold rational modernism. Crialese positions his story on the other side of the ‘Golden Door’, the gateway to Ellis Island.
The Sicilian smallholder Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato) decides that the whole family has to move to America, despite the opposition of his practical mother. The small port the ship leaves from already feels like a foreign country to them. Mingling with the emigrants on board is Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a bourgeois English lady whose background remains shrouded in mystery. She is the only one who speaks English.
The departure and the voyage are shot in beautiful scenes by Claire Denis’ regular camerawoman Agnès Godard. Surreal animations occasionally reflect the migrants’ fantasies about the land of milk and honey. The medical and other tests to which they are subjected on Ellis Island do little to change their hopeful fantasy. But Crialese has already made his point. The relevance of the Italian film of the year - rightfully also the Italian Oscar submission - is beyond dispute. (GT)