The pursuit of the American dream is the primary concern of everyone in America. It does not matter which part of the world one comes from; what matters is that, this dream is pursued and won. The definition of this dream, however, is dependent upon each dreamer. Over the years, as America’s economic and political stance has shifted radically, the American dream has grown from one single definition to several delineations. The two films analyzed in this paper, “Avalon,” directed by Barry Levinson and “Mi Familia” directed by Gregory Nava, demonstrate how each dreamer differently interprets the most popular dream of all dreams, the American dream.
The Krichinskys: the American Dream Destroys Racial Identity
“Avalon” tells the story of the Krichinsky family, whose Russian Jewish roots slowly disintegrated in hard pursuit of the American dream. The first generation of the Krichinskys has no problem with affirming cultural identity. Sam, the patriarch of the family and main character of the film, strongly affirmed his racial and cultural roots, incorporating its values and tradition in living his new life in America. It is in Jules, Sam’s son, that we find a radical change. Jules becomes transfixed, obsessed with pursuing his own American dream, a dream consisting a life of happiness in financial success and material comfort. Jules and his cousin Izzy Americanized their last names and ventured into sales and marketing, totally different from the house painting job of the older Krichinsky generation. Jules and Izzy succeeded in their venture and started to move closer to fulfilling their American dream.
However, as they do so, they moved further away from their roots as well. The situation got even worse when they left Avalon and relocated to the suburbs; we see that they further undergo cultural degeneration, more and more becoming entirely American, more and more denying their roots. As the years go by the traditional cultural practices of the Krichinskys disintegrate. The influence of television and the comfortability of suburban living made the younger generation of the Krichinskys lost touch with their roots, severing a precious racial and cultural bond. The television occupied their time, influenced their thinking and changed their perspectives, including their perspective on racial and cultural affirmation. The irreparable familial destruction of the Krichinskys is evident in the last scene of the film, wherein Michael, Jules’ son, brings his own boy to bond with his grandfather Sam in the nursing home. While Sam is talking about family history the young boy is intently focused on the television. This scene tells us that even with Michael’s effort to salvage what is left of the Krichinsky family, the inevitable familial destruction is to come.
The Sanchezes: the Elusive American Dream Tightens a Familial Bond
The second focus of this paper is the film entitled “Mi Familia,” which chronicles the tragedies and triumphs of the Sanchez family. The Sanchezes underwent a harsh process in pursuit of the American dream, owing to racial discrimination. The discrimination is first pronounced in the experience of the Sanchez parents and their children. It starts with Jose, the patriarch of the Sanchez family and his wife Maria. They endured a momentary separation when Maria got deported to Mexico despite of her U.S.citizenship. The separation of Jose and Maria marked the beginning of several ethnic bigotries the family faced as they settled in Los Angeles and pursued their own American dream. This particular dream consisted of equality, freedom and equal opportunity despite their Hispanic heritage. Unfortunately, the family endured several dilemmas that directly result from their being Hispanic.
However, we find the story of Jimmy, one of the children of Jose and Maria, as the most tragic and the most hopeful of all stories in the Sanchez family. Jimmy, like most of his Hispanic friends and like his brother Chucho, lived a violent life. But when he fell in love with Isabel, his wife, he radically changed. He started pursuing the American dream his parents had wanted for him as their own child. It was only unfortunate that Isabel died unexpectedly, leaving Jimmy and his American dream so crushed that he returned to his life of crime. However, when he got released from prison and was reunited with his son, we see the untiring hope for familial bond and familial love in his attempt to form a loving relationship with his son, who hates him. Mi Familia offers its viewers sparks of hope for the Sanchezes as a family. It emphasizes the fact that familial bond matters most in any life; be it a luxurious one like Memo’s, or a troubled one like Jimmy’s. Here, we follow a gritty, hardcore pursuit of the American dream, wherein no familial bond gets destroyed.
Two Different Families, Two Different American Dreams
The Krichinsky family in the film, “Avalon,” had a different delineation of the American dream as compared to the Sanchez family in the film, “Mi Familia.” The Krichinskys viewed the American dream in the economic context, seeking happiness in financial success and material comfort. The Sanchezes, on the other hand, pursued a more profound American dream, a dream that sought out happiness in equality, freedom and equal opportunity.
The Krichinskys suffered familial destruction because they lost themselves in the pursuit of their dream. They were a happy, well-bonded family until its younger generation, embodied by Jules, began to pursue a morally destructive but economically enriching path.
On the other hand, we have the Sanchezes, who dreamt of living the American dream of having a stable family life through equal opportunity, equality, and freedom. The Sanchezes clung to familial bond to make them whole, to make them matter. Their American dream is woven into the nurturing of the familial bond.
The pursuit of their respective dreams has two largely different outcomes as well. While we get dismayed over the inevitable destruction of the Krichinsky family , we thankfully see sparks of hope for the Sanchezes to pull the family back together. Characteristically, “Avalon” gives off sadness and melancholia, while “Mi Familia” flows with laughter and tears.
These two films uncover a message profound and substantial enough for any kind of person who may hate or love his family. It incurs a sense of warmth and love towards the family unit, the societal unit each person is attached to, no matter how positive or negative the attachment may be.
Johnson, M. and Levinson, B. & Levinson, B. 1990. Avalon. United States of America:
Coppola, F.F. & Nava, G. 1995. Mi Familia. United States of America: New Line Cinema.