Indignation: Film Review



Indignation is a small film that won’t set the box office alight or have mainstream appeal but if you’re a fan of Logan Lerman or Sarah Gadon you should definitely check it out because they showcase their best performances here by a mile. They are so good, the material is meaty and substantial and there’s fantastic dialogue for the audience to sink their teeth into.

Lerman stars as Marcus, a working-class Jewish kid who gets a scholarship to attend a college in Ohio while most of his buddies have gone off to fight in the Korean War. It’s 1951, Jews are in a serious minority at the college and he is struggling to fit in socially due to his all-work, no-play mentality. He eventually goes on a date with Olivia (Gadon), who has many of her own problems, but a sexual encounter throws the inexperienced Marcus into a tailspin. He keeps clashing with the dean of men (Tracy Letts), is stressed out by his overbearing father and cannot deal with his roommates.

As you can tell by my summary, not a ton happens plot-wise in Indignation, an adaptation of the Philip Roth novel, and it is basically following the decisions Marcus makes that lead to his untimely demise – this isn’t a spoiler, in the narration at the beginning, he tells you he is dead. There are many great moments in Indignation – for example, an extraordinary back-and-forth between Lerman and Letts felt like it should belong in a play as it was so meaty, his first date with Olivia and his time spent in the hospital for appendicitis are also brilliant.

I loved Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and he plays quite a similar character – socially awkward, without friends – although in this instance, Marcus isn’t bothered about changing that. He likes being that way. This is his best performance because Marcus isn’t likable all the time, in fact, a lot of his actions are infuriating but you do warm to him eventually. Gadon is illuminating onscreen as always and she did a fantastic job of navigating a woman with mental problems, especially in a time when it was not well understood. It’s refreshing she didn’t look like the typical ‘character with mental issues’.

However, Indignation does run a little too long and some scenes could have been cut or perhaps shortened because after all, most of them don’t affect the plot too greatly. I felt deflated by the ending because I didn’t see the point in us investing all this time watching Marcus in university and getting behind him to watch him die. I know the narration said it at the beginning, but I thought it might be a bluff or some plot device. The ending was disappointing but that doesn’t change the fact that the performances and the script are excellent.

In selected cinemas today 

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