DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

American Pastoral

Director - Ewan McGregor - 2016

"Greasy movie"
Are wounds of the Newark riots still open? Read our verdict of Ewan McGregor's debut as a director, a film packed with social woes and family taboos

An Anglo-Saxon hybrid of Almodovar’s Julieta (2016) and Nanni Moretti’s The Son’s Room (2001), that’s the best way of describing American Pastoral. Likewise the other two films, it depicts the story of parents who are struggling to survive after the disappearance of their children. Instead of having a Spanish melodramatic flavour, or an operatic Italian trauma, McGregor’s feature is based on Philip Roth’s novel, which sets the familiar tragedy using the Newark riots of 1967 as a background.

It is the first feature directed by actor Ewan McGregor, who described the task as “an incredible responsibility”. He also plays the main role Seymour “Swede” Levov, a once legendary high school athlete, whose beloved daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning) disappears after being accused of bombing a post office. Swede is a character that is broken by the loss of his daughter. The film explores guilt and taboos, such as incest, in a very touching way. McGregor confesses: “I was so attached to this role because I experienced other kinds of loss as a parent”. He has four daughters.

Apart from bringing to surface parenting issues, American Pastoral revisits some important social fights that occurred in the ‘60s. The anti-war movement during the Vietnam war is one of them and probably the most famous one. The Newark riots is another: Newark was one of the cities across the country where social convulsion broke out in the late 1960s. Years of poverty and discrimination had created frustration in many black communities. A black cab driver was pulled over and badly beaten by the police. When the riot ended, the area had been devastated. More than 45 years has passed, and it now seems Newark tried to overcome the historical wounds in favour of a message of renaissance. The event is still the spark of smoldering resentment.

The tension that arises between the couple after the disappearance of the daughter is a symbol of the complexity of family roles. How to be lovers again if your child is not around? How to search for something authentic for yourself if you are not sure your daughter is a criminal or not? Mother Dawn (played by Jennifer Connelly) has to deal with the challenge of reinventing her role as a wife. She literally goes mad. She was too beautiful and young when she got married. She adopted her husband’s faith and now it seems that her past choices were wrong. Her identity crisis is compelling.

The film reveals an aspect of the American dream that was rudely interrupted after World War II. It deconstructs our ideals and exposes our vulnerabilities. We are left with the same feeling of the daughter Merry: having to face the reality and being the child who is stuttering in fright.

American Pastoral is out in cinemas on November 10th.

You can watch the film trailer right here:


"Greasy movie"

By Maysa Monção - 23-09-2016

By Maysa Monção - 23-09-2016

Maysa Monção is a Brazilian writer, teacher, translator, editor and art performer who currently l...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
A small family of four lives in a [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Holidaying in Cambodia with Isaac (Ross McCall), Ben [Read More...]

Read More

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Jay Roach

James Luxford - 15-04-2021

James Luxford sheds a new light on the dirty comedy classic from the late 1990s, just in time for the release of its special edition on April 19th [Read More...]

What if the director is a murderer?


Paul Risker - 15-04-2021

Indie American filmmaker Gillian Wallace Horvat talks about her feature debut: I BLAME SOCIETY, a dirty horror story in which she plays herself committing murder, and questions the ideology of filmmaking - in an exclusive interview [Read More...]

Lea’s three favourite dirty movies


Lea Walker - 14-04-2021

Our 25-year-old reader from Dereham, Norfolk lists the three most thought-provoking, subversive and downright filthy movies of her life! [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *