If you are a sensitive person who is hurt or deeply wounded emotionally by criticism, American Woman will speak to you.
If you are a reactive person who retreats from those who put you down, American Woman will shake you.
If you are prone to anger when you can't get the answers you think you need and deserve, American Woman will feel familiar to you.
In his book Triggers, psychotherapist David Richo writes:
"There are no bulletproof vests for the psyche. . . . Some events have an emotional impact and activate a stressful reaction in us — they hook us, yank our chain."
Some people are able to stay calm under this kind of pressure. Others have to do inner work to free themselves for emotional healing. American Woman will speak to both types of people.
This emotionally rich film features a bravura performance by Sienna Miller as a working-class, middle-aged single mom who feels that she has lost total control of her life. She is yanked and twisted one way and then another by those around her who trigger her reactions of anger, fear, shame, and sadness.
Debra gave birth to Bridget (Sky Ferreira) when she was very young. Now a teenager, Bridget has followed in her mother's footsteps and had a baby out of wedlock herself. Baby Jesse's biological father Tyler (Alex Neustaedter), doesn't believe he can handle the responsibilities of being a dad.
Debra helps take care of Jesse when she's not working as a cashier in a grocery store. But she is also seeing a lot of men. Her sister Katherine (Christina Hendricks) who lives across the street with her husband Terry (Will Sasso) does not approve of her behavior. Neither does their elderly mother (Amy Madigan).
One night Bridget goes out to see Tyler and doesn't come home. The police organize the people in their small Pennsylvania town to search for her to no avail. Deb has to live with the mystery of not knowing what happened to her daughter. Over the course of 11 years, we follow her through more ups and downs. She often drinks too much and acts out. She also goes to school and becomes a worker advocate. She suffers mightily from a boyfriend (Pat Healty) who bullies her and expects to control her because he helps with her bills. Marriage to Chris (Aaron Paul) starts out very well, but changes over time.
Debra provides us with a study in resilience. This once insecure and resentful woman evolves into a loving grandmother, devoted sister, and respectful daughter. What is the secret to her transformation? She learns not to be triggered by what she cannot control.