Director Jake Scott and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby forgo traditional plot structure and opt for a terribly sad yet beautiful character study.
Sienna Miller finally tackles a role that displays her immense talent in the new film "American Woman." In it, she portrays a mother whose worst nightmare is realized when her daughter goes missing.
Deb (Miller) is a 31-year-old single mom with a 16-year-old daughter, Bridget (Sky Ferreira), who's also a single mother. Deb's still hot and flaunts it, especially when with her married boyfriend. But when Bridget suddenly disappears, Deb's life takes a drastic turn.
Her devoted sister, Katherine (Christina Hendricks), has always been her rock through thick and thin (mostly thin). But as Deb begins making bad decisions while raising her grandson, Katherine disapproves. When Deb finally kicks an extremely abusive boyfriend out, Katherine introduces her to Chris (Aaron Paul) who is unlike any man she has known previously. He's kind. They marry after eight short weeks.
All the while over the years, Deb has never stopped hoping for Bridget's return. But it's not in the cards. Over and over she experiences severe setbacks, yet somehow manages to persevere and rise above tremendous grief.
Director Jake Scott ("Welcome to the Riley's") and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby ("Out of the Furnace") have crafted more of a character study than a plot-driven piece of filmmaking in "American Woman." And it works brilliantly due to the casting of Miller. She occupies every frame in the movie and the camera loves her. She balances reckless and rebellious behavior with being a good parent who carries her pain with dignity. We cringe each time she endures being mistreated because we love her.
The supporting cast is also impressive. Especially Amy Madigan who plays Deb's sometimes overly judgemental mother. Along with Hendricks, all three women have charismatic chemistry with one another, which is much appreciated in this sad yet beautiful film.
"American Woman" is not a true story. But in a sense, it is for many single moms who are struggling to keep their heads above water in middle America. In the end, when Deb and her grandson embark upon a new life for themselves, hope springs eternal. And, sometimes, it's all you have.