AMERICAN WOMAN – A Review by Cynthia Flores
In American Woman, we see how an ordinary single mother in rural Pennsylvania is changed by a tragedy that will shape her life and those around her. Deb Callahan (Sienna Miller) who has a seventeen-year-old daughter named Bridget (Sky Ferreira) that has just had a little boy herself, repeating the mistakes her mom made at the same age. There is no condemnation about it, they have a close and tender relationship. Bridget helps her cashier mom squeeze into a skin-tight dress as she spackles on makeup to get ready for a late-night hookup with her married boyfriend. Bridget complains about how much weight she has gained since she had the baby. Deb tells her it took her over two years to get rid of the forty-five pounds that she put on when she had her. To which the daughter moans, “I just want it to go back to the way it was.” Deb sits on the bed with her giving her a big hug as she tells her, “Honey, it’s never going back to the way it was. We just have to make do with what’s left.” This small moment is the underpinning to this whole richly layered drama.
The next evening Bridget asks her mom to watch the baby so she can see her ex-boyfriend Tyler (Alex Neustaedter) who also happens to be the father of her child. Deb isn’t happy about it but relents. When morning comes, and she wakes up to the sound of the baby crying, she is shocked to see that Bridget’s bed hasn’t been slept in. Deb goes across the street to her older sister Kath’s (Christina Hendricks) place and asks her to watch the baby for a minute because Bridget didn’t come home last night from her date with Tyler. As she goes tearing out in her car, her brother-in-law Terry (Will Sasso) goes after her to keep her from doing something crazy. By the way, on a side note, it is so good to see the comedian Will Sasso in this film playing a straight dramatic role. He’s excellent as the ever-patient husband to Debs overbearing sister.
After Deb storms into Tyler’s parent’s home to ask him where she is, he admits they had a fight around 10 pm, and he dropped her off at a girlfriend’s house. “She wasn’t ready to go home yet and wanted to see her friends” is what he tells her. Deb goes there and finds out that after Bridget had a few drinks with her friends, she wouldn’t stay the night because she said Deb would kill her if she were not home to take care of the baby in the morning. Her friends’ house was over three miles away from their house, and it was after midnight when she started walking back home. When the local police and a neighborhood search party failed to turn up a single clue, Deb and her family are forced to confront the unimaginable truth: Bridget may be gone for good.
We watch as Deb is forced to confront the mistakes of her past in order to build a new life for herself and her grandson Jesse (played at different ages by Aidan McGraw and Aidan Fiske) she’s left to care for. Sienna Miller is impressive in her portrait of a woman’s long journey towards maturity. This is a tour de force performance by the actress. When her character, Deb finally learns the truth of her daughter’s disappearance. Your heart breaks for her as she sits face to face with the man responsible for it all.
American Woman is an engrossing story about love, hope, and finding a way forward when all seems lost. Deb said it best when she hugged Bridget that night so long ago as she got ready for her date. What she said about “making do with what’s left”, never knowing that it would be the last time she would ever hug her daughter.
I give American Woman an A rating because it’s touchingly well crafted.
Directed by Jake Scott
Written by Brad Ingelsby
Selig Rating A
Running Time 1hr 51min
Limited to Wide Release The Magnolia Theater, The Angelika Film Center Plano, AMC Grapevine Mills 30
Starring: Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks, Amy Madigan, Will Sasso, Aaron Paul, Sky Ferreira
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.