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
“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.