For something that declares its nationality in the title — via a phrase most associated with a song by a Canadian group, admittedly — Jake Scott’s American Woman moves with the rhythms of foreign film. It may have something to do with the director being the British-born son of Ridley Scott, though it also helps that Brad Inglesby’s script unfolds like an adaptation of an unwritten novel. Debra (Sienna Miller) is a single mother in rural Pennsylvania whose life is upended when her teenage daughter Bridget (Sky Ferreira) vanishes.
But Debra’s life eventually goes on as it must, including further drama surrounding her sister Katherine (Christina Hendricks) and her mother Peggy (Amy Madigan), as well as romances with men both bad (Pat Healy) and not-terrible-but-not-that-great, either (Aaron Paul). A film like this lives or dies by how it regards its characters, and American Woman wisely never judges Debra, no matter the choices she makes. And considering they’re both stories about the effect an unspeakable act visited upon a blond teenager has on a small community, there’s a certain beauty in how American Woman uses Stars of the Lid’s 1997 ambient piece “Music for Twin Peaks Episode #30 Part 1” at a pivotal moment far better than Twin Peaks: The Return probably would have.
Rated R. Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.