American Woman (2018)
Directed by Jake Scott
Sienna Miller is Debra. A free-spirited single mum who lives in the moment despite the inherent backlash she receives from her family. Devoid of any true responsibility she floats through life unaware and uncaring of her place in the world or what her clouded future holds. When her daughter disappears in mysterious circumstances, it is Debra’s duty to take care of her abandoned grandson while facing up to the destructive existence she has made for herself.
It is rare nowadays to find a solely character driven film that truly hits home. Keeping you invested in a character is a hard task, especially when the plot relies on the ability of the audience to personally connect with them. American Woman knocks it out of the park. Every beat was honest and felt completely true to life, always knowing when to play it’s cards or when to hold them close to its chest. All this is achieved effortlessly through a well-crafted family dynamic and a phenomenal performance from it’s lead.
Sienna Miller is flawless. She embodies Debra with such ease and depth of emotion it reels you in, making it impossible not to feel the weight of every act or decision she makes. The journey she undertakes and the evolution of her character is masterful, in both the script and her acting ability. Sienna dominates every scene and her unwavering skill is showcased from start to finish. Even after leaving the screening her presence clung to me, the duality of her final moments hit hard and true. It is something spectacular to behold and award-worthy. This performance needs to be recognised.
The heart and soul of this movie resides in the family unit surrounding Debra. It unapologetically shows the arguments and discusses past transgressions, but ultimately reveals the relentless love they have for each other. The passion feels honest and human. The dynamic is powerful beyond belief, feeling familiar to the audience who can easily find some similarity in their own homes. Christina Hendricks and Will Sasso play Debra’s sister and brother-in-law. Acting as a moral compass for her, they are by a long shot involved in the most hard-hitting scenes of the film. These scenes were expertly acted with so much conviction that I was finding it hard to choke back the tears.
The plot thread which weaves throughout the story is the disappearance of Debra’s daughter. Surprisingly the film does not revolve around this event, yet it is absolutely intrinsic to everything Debra faces. It winds itself through every hardship or opportunity that faces her, moulding her into the person she becomes. I find it hard to say this particular story line needed to be fleshed out more than it was, but I did feel like these moments needed something with an impact. We have our emotional plays, but the movie is very subtle and foreboding, without anything that hits too hard. With that said this film was an unsuspecting surprise. I was deeply moved and fell in love with the heartfelt drama. If I have learnt anything from this film, it is that Sienna Miller deserves an Oscar nomination.