Adapted from Philip Roth’s book of the same title, Indignation tells the story of Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a smart, working class Jewish boy from New Jersey, who wins a scholarships to study at a small town conservative college in Ohio. There, Marcus meets the troubled Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) and finds himself thrown into a maelstrom of adolescent hormones and confusion. It sounds on the face of it like any other coming-of-age, boy-meets-girl American drama, but it isn’t. Whilst the film bears all the hallmarks of these genres, director James Schamus has done a marvellous job of allowing the political and social atmosphere of the 1950s to seep into it. The Korean War, McCarthyism, and the antiquated sexual mores of the age hang over the protagonists, not so much shaping their story but lacing it with tense, unpleasant and thoroughly compelling dark undertones.
Although the 1950s may seem like a long time ago, the parallels between the Cold War paranoia of the era and today’s renewed, re-blended tensions are made clear. Alongside the love story at the heart of the movie, Marcus’s intellectual clashes with the Christian, conservative forces at his college transform his character into something far more interesting than merely an innocent boy who meets a pretty girl. Lerman gives a brilliant and thoughtful performance in the role and, along with Gadon, is particularly impressive during some of the most fraught scenes where everything and nothing is said at once. In spite of her beauty, Gadon’s Olivia is no wallflower. Though her character retains an element of the unknown about her to the very end, thanks to Schamus’s script and Gadon’s talent she avoids the empty fate of so many cinematic female love interests, and is portrayed as real and complex – that is to say, as human.
Indignation has a lot to offer, both in terms of the nuance of the story and the cinematography, which is artfully composed. It is a love story, of sorts, told with a mature and clear vision by Schamus, but it is also the depiction of an intangible and insidious sense of dissatisfaction, discontent and well, indignation, which should resonate all too well with today’s audiences.
Indignation is released nationwide on 18th November 2016.
Watch the trailer for Indignation here: