Dir: Ewan McGregor 1hr 48mins (15)
Heavy-handed adaptation of the Philip Roth novel The novels of Philip Roth are notoriously unfilmable, yet for some reason, film-makers won’t stop trying, said Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent. The latest to step up to the plate is the British actor Ewan McGregor, who makes his directing debut with this “painstaking” adaptation of Roth’s 1997 Pulitzer winner, American Pastoral. It’s a complex tale of an all-American family presided over by Seymour “Swede” Levov (McGregor), an over-achieving paragon whose life implodes when his daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning) becomes a terrorist. Does McGregor pull it off? “Unfortunately not,” said Henry Fitzherbert in the Sunday Express. Squeezed into less than two hours, plot points that work in the book seem “rushed”, and the responses of Levov and his fragrant wife (Jennifer Connelly) to Merry’s transformation are “hard to credit”. McGregor brings a “gentle incorruptibility” to his performance, said John Nugent in Empire. Yet some of his directorial touches – for example, using footage of Woodstock and the Moon landing to convey a sense of the era – are about “as subtle as a tank in a model village”. I fear this film lacks the “wit, nuance and insight” of its source material.