It was just another quiet evening with nothing to do; so I started scrolling through Amazon Prime movies and chose American Woman from 2018.
Although I knew nothing about it, this long story of American life immediately appealed to me.
We follow a young mother who lives with her barely teenage daughter; who cares for a young son whose father wants nothing to do with them.
Right in front of them also lives her sister, with whom she has a relationship of love and quarrel; who has a more stable family with a reliable husband and two young boys.
Both mother and daughter try to live by deriving pleasure from small things and occasional relationships they have with local men.
One night, however, her daughter disappears into thin air; just when she was supposed to return from a date with her ex-boyfriend and father of the child.
All subsequent police investigations and searches in which she involves the community come to nothing; one night, the woman has a bad accident after arguing with her lover.
Years later, the situation seems more stable for her and her family; but this does not mean happiness, as she is now with an abusive and controlling man who beats her repeatedly.
After banishing him from the house, she decides she does not want to be alone; yet, after meeting a charming young boy, she begins another relationship that soon leads to marriage.
Very soon, however, even this relationship falls apart, just as the police seem to be coming to a breakthrough in her daughter’s disappearance.
In the last act of this family epic, she will have to face the worst mistakes of her life; however, over the years, she has finally become strong enough to make the right choices.
A mother who changes like the seasons
I honestly didn’t know much about Sienna Miller before, except for Clint Eastwood‘s excellent American Sniper; however, she had a marginal role compared to the predominant Bradley Cooper.
In 2018’s American Woman, the actress is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the entire movie; around whom all the other characters and everything that happens revolves.
The story covers a considerable period that moves along numerous years; thus, we can see her impressive transformation from a hot and reckless girl to a robust and responsible mother.
Of course, the first thing to talk about is the cast that makes up the rest of her family; starting with the daughter who disappears almost immediately, played by a convincing Sky Ferreira.
With her, the mother certainly has a loving, if at times difficult, relationship; then we can say the same about her sister Christina Hendricks and her mother, the excellent Amy Madigan.
Quite different are the many men in the protagonist’s life; who come and go over the years, except for her sister’s husband, the charming Will Sasso; who certainly wins the award for best man in this story.
Quite the opposite, however, is the character of Pat Healy, the classic suspicious, abusive, jealous overlord father that no woman would ever want in her life.
A small ray of light and hope comes at the end from Aaron Paul; who instead seems to embody all the ideal characteristics of Prince Charming; but even with him, nasty surprises are around the corner.
In short, as you can see, there is much meat to the simple story of an American suburban family; although in its own strange and sometimes incomprehensible way, they remain united in tragedy and difficulty.
Simple, yet direct and effective
Jake Scott directs this narrative set up with a steady, convincing hand; handling Brad Ingelsby‘s excellent script with perfect timing.
The script also builds on efficient and emotional writing, but it never jams in improbable turns as could have happened with the missing daughter element.
Other writers might have leaned more heavily on the investigation of the mother and the police; turning everything into one of many crime family dramas; which live on the adrenaline rush of the moment, but we forget it ten minutes after the conclusion.
Instead, 2018’s American Woman is a much more concise and narrow movie, with a story that essentially takes place on one street and two houses across from each other, the protagonist and her sister.
The story of this family mirrors the dream of an America that is no more; a place once of great opportunity, where today, however, mothers and fathers struggle to live and provide a future for their children.
It is no coincidence that for a time, this mother endures an abusive and cruel partner; who nevertheless brings money every month and is therefore indispensable.
But in the end, her freedom and the welfare of her missing daughter’s child are more important than economic security; kicking out the bullying man with a dangerously unstable mood.
Jake Scott almost steps aside with direction meant to be unspectacular; spying with us through the keyhole on this chorus of lost souls in provincial America.
The director lets his protagonists, who are extraordinarily believable and natural, speak freely; without resorting to any cinematic tricks or silly twists to fascinate us, viewers.
In short, what convinced me most is the sober and elegant direction and screenplay; what we see is there, without mysteries or forced happy endings that would have ruined everything.