Seymour “The Swede” Levov is the perfect red-blooded American man. A high school football star and heir to a successful glove-manufacturing business, he marries Dawn, an equally-perfect Miss New Jersey. They settle down on a farm and raise a daughter, Meredith, in what seems to be an idyllic life. Once Merry grows up however, she takes up the revolutionary cause against the establishment and protests the Vietnam War. After a Post Office is bombed, she becomes a suspect and disappears. Seymour and Dawn exhaust every resource looking for her but are determined to find their daughter. Ultimately, their wills are stretched to the breaking point and they seriously consider giving up.
2016, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 48 mins
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning
Directed by Ewan McGregor
Sex: Brief nudity
I don’t wish to reveal too much of the plot here but if my synopsis seems to suggest there’s no happy ending, it’s because there isn’t. American Pastoral is a well-made, well-written, and well-acted film. But it’s not something that will make you feel good. If intense emotion and drama is what you seek, it’s here in abundance. But for a casual evening’s entertainment, you might want to consider locking up all sharp objects before watching this one.
Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut and for a first effort, it comes off well. Starting with a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel doesn’t hurt but he treats it with care even as he struggles to make it all fit into 108 minutes. The story doesn’t suffer but some details are glossed over. Luckily, it’s paced well and though I found myself looking forward to the finale, I wasn’t bored.
McGregor, Connelly and Fanning turn in excellent performances and watching them was a highlight for me. The period depictions of the 50s, 60s, and 70s are also spot-on. Even the color palette and look of the film is just right for the story. The musical score adds a great touch with classic undertones and lush orchestral interludes that harken back to movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
All in all, it’s a solid effort that just lacks some uplifting quality to help balance out a very depressing depiction of what violence, anger, and hatred can do to innocent people just trying to make their way through life.
The color palette is rife with warm, rich hues that fit the depicted era perfectly. Contrast is deep and consistent with inky blacks and bright highlights that make the image pop even in nighttime scenes. Clarity is top-shelf too with accurate detail that still retains a film-like feel.
Audio is equally superb with crystal-clear dialog, well-placed background effects, and an immersive presentation that places ambient cues in the surround channels. The LFE channel doesn’t get much use but that isn’t a negative. As stated above, the music is among the best I’ve heard in a modern film and really enhances the presentation.
Bonus features include audio commentary from Ewan McGregor, a documentary about the novel’s adaptation to the screen, and a short about production design.