The Critical Reception of ‘Nuovomondo’ Abroad

Nuovomondo was first premiered during Venice Festival on September, 8th 2006 where it received seven nominations and won a total of six prizes: the Silver Lion, the Pasinetti Award, the FEDIC Award, the CinemAvvenire Award, the SIGNIS Award and the UNICEF Award. It also competed for the Leone d’Oro. Still in 2006 it was nominated in the Best Movie category at the European Film Awards. In 2007 it received 13 nominations at the David di Donatello Awards and won in 3 categories: Best Scenography, Best Costumes, and Best Visual FX. The film was the Italian submission for Best Film in a Foreign Language the 79th Academy Awards, but it did not ultimately gain a nomination.

In Italy, some critics praised in particular the director’s attention to the sound and visual experience of the viewer, while, on the other hand, others noted and criticized the lack of symbols and iconography typical of the time (e.g. the Statue of Liberty in Ellis Island).


In France critics were particularly positive. In general, they note the lack of a good plot – “an average movie made of some good moments”, as Thomas Sotinel writes in Le Monde.

Some enthusiastic reviews did appear, however. As in the US, certain French critics use the term “lyricism” to describe the way the story is told, including Frédéric Strauss in Télérama: “They are poor, they dream about the New World. The director of Respiro tells their odyssey with lyricism and fantasy”. Another appreciated theme is that of emigration as told from a European point of view, something highlighted in Le Figaro in an interview with the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Jean-Michel Frodon offers a negative write-up of the film in Cahiers du Cinéma: “Full of cinema references […], the movie is based on two painful parts and some weird pieces”. Pierre Vavasseur in Le Parisien agrees, stating that “With the pretense of doing historical work, Italian cinema wears heavy clothes, confusing ambition and emphasis”.


British critics very much appreciated The Golden Door, and the film collected many positive reviews in the most important newspapers. Anthony Quinn in The Independent wrote that “The details of this chaotic odyssey to the New World are so intricately and poignantly handled that throughout a voice in your head insists: this is how it must have been”. Johnny Vaughan suggested watching it in order to count the blessings we have today, which this “beautifully acted” film helps us to do (The Sun, 29/06/2007). And a “joy of a movie” is the definition used by Wendy Ide in The Times.

Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian) picks out the relevance and poignancy of the scene depicting the ship’s departure: “Crialese contrives a sensational image of the dense shipboard crowds bidding farewell to the quayside crush in a kind of stunned silence, the desolation of friends and family who will almost certainly never see each other again”.

The critical reception was not entirely positive though, as in Tim Robey’s review in The Daily Telegraph the critic recounts how “on the boat, [the characters] meet Lucy, a British expat played in a red wig, corsets and pasty make-up by the ever-peculiar Charlotte Gainsbourg. Their arrival at Ellis Island plunges them into a bureaucratic quagmire, from which Crialese perhaps intends us to draw outraged homeland-security parallels in the present day. But, except during these pointed and crisply staged scenes of testing and quarantine, his movie feels thoroughly adrift”


American critics seem to be quite cohesive about Crialese’s work, perhaps thanks to Martin Scorsese’s commitment to the movie. After all, the director helped with the reception of The Golden Door in particular via a radio interview, in which he explains how much he appreciated the movie, seeing it as incredibly connected to the story of his own family.

Its appreciation is uniform, the critics were enthusiastic about the realism of the plot, and the rhythm of the movie (albeit noted as slow) was well considered, too. On the contrary, a few critics criticize the lack of originality of the story itself, suggesting that we’ve seen it before (Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel, 13/07/2007).

Critic Ann Hornaday, at The Washington Post, refers to the “magic” done by director Emanuele Crialese in creating an age-old plot; Michael Wilmington also uses the adjective “lyrical” in the Chicago Tribune’s review. A.O. Scott in The New York Times continues the list of good reviews of the movie, writing that “what makes Mr. Crialese’s telling unusual, apart from the gorgeousness of his wide-screen compositions, is that his emphasis is on departure and transition, rather than arrival”.

However, the film gathered also some negative reviews, for instance by Sura Wood in The Hollywood Reporter, writing, “A series of static, poetic tableaux rather than a full-blown cinematic experience, screenwriter-director Emanuele Crialese’s Golden Door drains the drama and iconography out of an inherently dramatic, iconic story”.