American Pastoral – Dir Ewan McGregor

Cast: Uzo Aduba, Jennifer Connelly, Valorie Curry,Rupert Evans, Dakota Fanning, Ewan McGregor, Peter Riegert, David Strathairn

The critics have been unfairly harsh in their comments about Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut. The film is not bad. I was emotionally destroyed by this heartbreaking story of “The Swede”, a man who has a seemingly perfect life, who has a kind heart, who works hard, only to see it all torn apart by forces beyond his control. The tortured relationship with his daughter is captured very well on screen and we feel his pain.  Jennifer Connolly’s performance is outstanding, Oscar worthy actually.

Book to film translations are never easy, and the better the novel the more difficult it is to live up to in film.  Staying true to a book can be like handcuffs. I tried to read the book the week before TIFF and I only made it about halfway through, but far enough to understand that it was the narrator’s story. He is “The Swede’s”, kid brother’s best friend, and he idolized him. When one thing leads to another, I’ll not spoil this for book readers, he feels compelled to write “The Swede’s story”.  This was all a bit awkward in the film with many details missing. I feel a bit for David Strathairn who plays “Skip”, given this part should have been more like Nick Carraway’s in The Great Gatsby. With that you could argue that the screenplay needed some fine tuning to tie it all together, maybe even dump the narrator.

I am told as a rule critics are not keen on actors who direct. I find this very curious given that actors would have developed a certain amount of experience which would position them well for directing. Hopefully the crabby press will not discourage Ewan from directing. To the critics, he’s a nice guy, so let’s all give him and break and let him try again! I believe he has a knack for this and I cannot wait for the next one.

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