Ewan Mc Gregor has made a strange choice for his first film as director, a 1960s-set American suburban drama wouldn’t seem to be the most logical choice for an actor that’s used to playing mostly British characters.

The story begins at a 40-year high school reunion, where author Nathan Zuckerman (David Strathairn) meets his old friend, Jerry Levov (Rupert Evans). As they reminisce about the past, Jerry reveals that he’s just buried his older brother, Seymour (Mc Gregor), the high school athletics champion who was known as the “Swede”.

In flashback, Levov then goes on to tell Zuckerman about his brothers turbulent past life.

We first meet the “Swede’s” when he inherits his father’s Newark glove factory and then marries is Irish Catholic girlfriend, Dawn (Jennifer Connelly), a local beauty who once held the title of Miss New Jersey.

Seymour and Dawn then have a child called Merry (Dakota Fanning).

As Merry grows up, hindered by a stutter, she becomes more and more radicalised, the constant images of the war in Vietnam on her TV screen then causes her to carry out an act that changes the Levovs’ lives for ever.

Casting himself in the lead role, with hindsight, would appear to have been the wrong choice, as Mc Gregor never really convinces, his faltering American accent and at times stagey performance removes from American Pastoral any dramatic tension.

American Pastoral is a hard watch, its narrative is so slow that it almost grinds to a halt, whilst not one of its leading characters have any redeeming qualities.

“American Pastoral” is great to look at, Mc Gregor’s attention to period detail is unquestionable, however with style you undoubtedly need substance, and that in a nutshell is American Pastoral’s problem, as its all style over substance.

American Pastoral (15)

1h 48m

: Ewan McGregor
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Uzo Aduba, David Strathairn

UK Release: Friday 11th November 2016


     Official TV spot