The will to survive

‘The Immigrant’ review

By Steven Cayer, Senior Columnist


The Immigrant may be a lesser-known film, but it deserves a lot more attention than it’s been getting. Directed by James Grey, the movie is set in 1921 New York and tells the nightmarish story of Ewa Cybulska (played by Marion Cotillard), a Polish immigrant trying to find a new life for her and her sister Magda.

Since Magda fell ill and was diagnosed with tuberculosis, she’s been quarantined. Ewa meanwhile has no money, and is faced with the looming knowledge that she’ll have to pay for her sister’s release from quarantine; worse still, Ewa’s been accused of being a “woman of low morals.” In comes Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix) who runs an illegal prostitution ring under the covers of a burlesque theatre show. He gets Ewa involved, saying if she saves enough money she can see Magda again. Jeremy Renner also plays a traveling magician who also gives Ewa hope of a future.

At first, this sounds a lot like a soap opera, but I’m glad to tell you it’s much more. The performances alone make this movie well-worth seeing—especially Cotillard: this was her best performance I’ve seen. Throughout the movie, I found myself emotionally grasping at every shred of hope and hanging on for Ewa. I was invested in her world.

The film is marketed as a “small” movie, but it deserves to be much bigger. The only way I found out about it is through a friend. More people should see this movie—maybe even you.