American Woman is sensitively directed byy Jake Scott, son of Ridley, who produced this surprisingly emotionally involving saga with a star-making lead performance from Sienna Miller.
The Ties That Bindby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Sienna Miller is outstanding as Debra, an American woman who could be a character in a Bruce Springsteen song. Debra lives in a working-class Pittsburgh estate of prefab houses, conveniently across the road from her sensible older sister Katherine (Christine Hendricks), her solid husband Terry (Will Sasso), and their mother (Amy Madigan). When we first meet her, she’s having an affair with a married man, dresses and acts like white trash and is a vivacious grandmother at 32: she had her much-loved daughter Bridget (Sky Ferreira) at the age of 16, and Bridget, like mother, like daughter, had her own son Jesse at a similar age.
When Bridget, who lives with her, doesn’t return home after a row one evening with the father of her child (ex-boyfriend Tyler, Alex Neustaedter), at first Debra is angry. She’s left having to look after baby Jesse when she needs to get to her job as a bar waitress. But as time passes with no word, she starts to fear the worst and the police are called in. Bridget is classified missing. Debra is grief stricken and her life is horribly changed overnight.
But she carries on. Eleven years pass as Jesse (Aidan McGraw as a child and Aidan Fiske as a teen) grows up into a good son and Debra takes on the responsibility of being his surrogate mother. She raises her grandson well, though she gets into an abusive relationship with a violent man (Pat Healy) for a while.
Whilst Bridget is always in the background and she is never forgotten, the focus is on Debra and her close, supportive family as she works, studies, makes mistakes, tries again, tries harder, falls in love, marries a younger man (Aaron Paul), and generally does her best to cope with the emotional highs and lows of life.
The well-written, perceptive screenplay by Brad Ingelsby gives Sienna Miller the chance of a wonderful role that she grabs with both hands. She creates a rounded, complex woman that you can’t help but want to overcome the odds against her. As the years go by in the course of the film, Debra grows in a way that’s wonderful to see as she does her defiant best to cope with the curve balls life throws at her. She’s brash and resilient, though you never know if she’s going to be caring, conciliatory or throw a punch. We visit her life at different stages as the years pass: and eventually we’re on her side when she has to draw on all the strength and maturity she has learnt when news of Bridget unexpectedly comes.
American Woman is sensitively directed by Jake Scott, son of Ridley, who produced this surprisingly emotionally involving saga with a star-making lead performance from Sienna Miller.
American Woman is released on 11 October 2019 in the UK.