One part whodunnit, one part character drama, Jake Scott’s “American Woman” follows its eponymous leading lady (played, yes, by British star Sienna Miller) over the course of a decade, one marked by heartbreak and a terrible crime. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, where Miller’s performance earned her some of the best reviews of her career yet.
The film picks up as Miller’s Deb Callahan approaches her mid-thirties in a poor Rust Belt town, mixed up in a life that’s already been marred by some terrible choices. Deb is barely holding things together, from her thankless job as a supermarket cashier to her ill-advised romance with a local married man, and her teenage daughter Bridget (Sky Ferreira) seems doomed to repeat her mom’s mistakes. As the two Callahan women try to carve out a better life for Bridget’s own baby, tragedy (or, perhaps more appropriately, mystery) strikes when Bridget goes missing.
Scott’s film, written by Brad Ingelsby (who previously penned the similarly small town-centric “Out of the Furnace”), tracks Deb and her grandson over the course of the next few years, as she struggles to keep herself and her family afloat. And yet Bridget’s disappearance is never far from anyone’s mind, and as Deb grows, so too does the story of what actually happened to her daughter, seemingly building to a reckoning many years in the making.
Miller’s work in the film has been billed as some of her strongest yet, though a number of critics at TIFF questioned whether or not the film itself stands up to her solid work. Over at Variety, critic Dennis Harvey wrote of her performance, “Miller throws herself into a role that has lots of showy moments but can’t provide the organic grit that’s missing from the script. … The actress gives an assertive, hard-working performance, but it never quite rings true.” In an always-wild awards landscape, can Miller perhaps break through this year?
The film also stars Christina Hendricks, Aaron Paul, and Amy Madigan.
Check out the first trailer for “American Woman” below. Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment will release the film on June 14.