The Immigrant tell the story of Polish woman, Ewa (played by French actress Marion Cotillard), who arrives at Ellis Island with her sister, Magda (Angela Sarafyan). Unfortunately, Magda is quarantined because of illness, and Ewa is rejected by the immigration authorities because of questionable conduct on the voyage to New York. Just when all seems lost and she is about to be deported, Ewa is found by a man named Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) who offers to help her. However, this help has a cost, and soon Ewa is sucked into a life of prostitution in 1920s New York. Things get even more complicated when she meets Bruno’s estranged cousin Emil (Jeremy Renner), and they start to fall in love.
Add to the balance of darkness that the low-budget film surprisingly features some impressive acting chops. Marion Cotillard continues to appear seemingly anywhere she wants after the success of her first big American picture, Inception. Joaquin Phoenix continues the restoration of his acting career started with Her after some… interesting years (see I’m Still Here). And this (along with American Hustle) will hopefully prevent Jeremy Renner from being type casted as Hawkeye. In contrast to the big-name actors on display, the rest of the film is quite understated, with a focus on dialogue and the everyday and ordinary struggles of an immigrant. It is colored in a typical (but still good-looking) sepia tone to give this wonderful period piece a dated feel.
I admire this movie for being able to straddle the fine line between angst and hope in its story. It is something that many stories seem to have trouble with; they feel either inconsequential and meant to provide fluff entertainment or unceasingly dark and gritty in an ill-advised attempt to be relevant and edgy. They say that even in the darkest night there is always a light at the end of the tunnel; hopefully this film is that light for the modern movie industry.