This isn’t necessarily a recommendation, but “American Pastoral“, now in theaters, is worth a note. It’s based on Philip Roth’s novel; the story of an American family disrupted by the controversies and radical politics of the 1960’s.
Although “American Pastoral” is in some sense about politics, it’s not really a political film. Rather, its focus is on the psychology of political divisions, and how our differences metastasize into violent conflicts. In our own lives, we see (and often participate) in passionate politics, but we sometimes wonder if people really believe in what they’re saying and doing, or whether they’re merely acting upon some internal dysfunction which renders them susceptible to the more toxic currents of history.
The film brings to mind Tammy’s own story. In her book The Death of Right and Wrong, Tammy reflects upon her personal issues that led her into left-wing activism.
I appreciated “American Pastoral” for an elusive vagueness that others may find frustrating. We’re not given a simple this-caused-that explanation, and there’s no easy analysis as to what went wrong or what should have been done. The characters and events struck me as organic and realistic, and thus their dilemmas were frustrating and even agonizing.
It would be nice if this sort of problem could be wrapped up nicely and tied with a ribbon, but that’s not life. Rather, we step back and observe, and learn what we can. In this vein, I found the film worth watching.
Reviews have been mixed, with some enthusiasts and some detractors.