The Immigrant (Blu-ray)

The Movie:

On the surface, the plot of The Immigrant sounds like one of those cheesy period melodramas that the senior-aged audience eats up: An innocent immigrant woman comes to New York during the early 1920s and has to become a prostitute in order to save her beloved sick sister from deportation. Just by reading the logline, one can easily imagine scenes full of operatic tragedy, where mustache-twirling villains use and abuse our delicate protagonist behind an obligatory sepia-colored cinematography.

While the sepia-colored cinematography part is true (Although, it’s handled in an artistically breathtaking manner, resulting in some of the most gorgeous frames of last year), what separates The Immigrant from a flock of similar melodramas is co-writer/director James Gray’s insistence on delving deep into each character while refusing to peg any one of them as traditional villains or heroes. This is a film full of characters strictly in the grey area, without a black or white viewpoint to be seen anywhere, which is very unusual for this style of period drama.

Consider a typically tragic scene early on in the film: The poor but morally strong immigrant of the story, Ewa (Marion Cotillard in one of the most emotionally impactful performances of her career), is finally convinced to have sex with a young boy for a piece of the money she needs to free her sister. While acknowledging the tragedy of the situation, Gray complicates matters by not allowing us a clear antagonist to hate. We clearly understand and relate to the motivations of every party involved, including Ewa’s pimp Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), a staunch early 20th century opportunist who’s obviously falling in love with Ewa.

After fleshing out a string of lost and vulnerable characters in great films like The Master and Her, it’s fun to watch Phoenix as a manipulative charlatan whose charismatic façade gradually disappears because of his feelings for Ewa. Bruno lacks the confidence and self-esteem that’s required to open up to Ewa, which is a problem that his charming and idealist cousin magician Emil (Jeremy Renner) doesn’t suffer from. As Emil and Ewa develop a relationship and Ewa can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel, Bruno’s jealousy threatens her possible happiness once again.

Of course this doesn’t mean that we’re meant to root for Emil and hiss at Bruno. While we can see Bruno’s manipulative ways coming from a mile away, Gray doesn’t let the audience off the hook by developing a wholly evil character. He does guide his women into a life of prostitution, but also cares for their well being and sometimes even puts his own neck on the line in order to protect them. Emil looks like the perfect knight in shining armor, ready to sweep up the damsel in distress and take her away from such a wretched life.

But he’s also an ambiguous figure as hints of vanity and rage slowly reveal themselves. Even Ewa has some moments where he’s clearly manipulating Bruno’s weaknesses for her financial gain. The performances by the three leads are terrific as the film leads to an unexpectedly tender and moving finale.

The Blu-Ray:


Even though The Immigrant has a romantic sepia look that fits the period melodrama mold, especially when we’re talking about a period and place like early 20th century New York, the film has a distinct lived-in look. The cinematography by legendary DP Darius Khondji is gorgeous and has to be experienced on this excellent 1080p transfer.


Gray and his sound team obviously spent a lot of time giving The Immigrant’s locations an authentic feel. Even though the film doesn’t bring a lot of surround presence, at least until Chris Spelman’s moving score envelops your surround system, the attention to detail on the background sounds are impressive. The DTS-HD 5.1 track that’s offered on the disc also sports very clear dialogue.


The Visual Inspiration for The Immigrant: A very brief two-minute featurette that compares actual photos of 1920s immigrants in Ellis Island with the look of the film.

Audio Commentary by James Gray: If you’re a fan of this film, this commentary should come as an invaluable extra, as Gray gives a fascinating history lesson about the era while also talking about the details of the production.

We also get a Trailer.

Final Thoughts:

The Immigrant is an unpredictable and moving period melodrama that fits the strict confines of its genre perfectly while delivering something fresh, helped by Gray’s assured direction and the touching performances by Cotillard, Phoenix and Renner.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald,, and Bitch Magazine.

Source Article from
The Immigrant (Blu-ray)
immigrant – Yahoo News Search Results
immigrant – Yahoo News Search Results


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