American Pastoral

Writer Nathan Zuckerman (David Strathairn) stares with nostalgia at photos and trophies displayed in the main hall of his old high school. After many years away, he has come back to attend the 45th reunion of the class of 1951. Looking at the pictures, he remembers his old-time friend Seymor Levov (Ewan McGregor) whom everyone called “The Swede” and was the most popular boy in the school, a football star who later married beautiful Dawn Dwyer (Jennifer Connelly), a Miss New Jersey and Miss America contestant. The couple had a child named Merry (Dakota Fanning). Their life seemed to be the perfect American dream, envied and admired by most who knew them.

After being out of the country for so long, Nathan wonders about The Swede and how his life has been like. Right there and then, Jerry (Rupert Evans), the Swede’s brother, his best high school friend, coincides with him and begins to tell Nathan what everyone else in town knows about how the Swede’s life was turned upside down by his dear daughter Merry.

Marred by psychological issues since her childhood, in her teens, Merry was also trapped by the turbulence and radicalism of the 1960’s. Swede and Dawn did all they could to help her. Nevertheless, life was not as generous with them as before. Although Swede didn’t give up, their daughter broke his heart turning her life into one of a father’s worst nightmares.

One of the obvious conclusions from this complex drama may be that some things will never change no matter how much you try, and that life, like a wild river, at times drags you unpredictably wherever it pleases. I’m sure you might find other life lessons from this thought-provoking 2016 film.

Adapted from the Phillip Roth’s novel, Ewan McGregor directed himself and this terrific cast in what is for me, one of those movies you can’t forget.

See also with Ewan McGregor: The Impossible (2012), I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

See also with Jennifer Connelly: Only the Brave (2017), Blood Diamond (2006)

See also with Dakota Fanning: Please Stand By (2017), Now is Good (2012)

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