Lost innocence

Sarah Gadon and Logan Lerman play lovers in Indignation.
Sarah Gadon and Logan Lerman play lovers in Indignation. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / DRAMA

INDIGNATION (NC16)

111 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3 stars

The story: Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), the son of an over-protective Jewish butcher, leaves home in Newark, New Jersey, to attend college in Ohio. There, he meets the beautiful but troubled Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) and their first date turns his world upside down. He later clashes with the school's pedantic dean Caudwell (Tracy Letts) over religion and the boundaries of personal liberties. Based on the 2008 novel of the same name by acclaimed American writer Philip Roth.

The story is set in the early 1950s against the background of American soldiers being shipped off to the Korean War. While some elements feel dated, Marcus' frustration as he rails against older authority figures is easy to identify with.

Indignation hinges on the pivotal scenes between him and Caudwell. Letts, who is also an award-winning playwright and screenwriter of August: Osage County (2007), is the man you love to hate as the intransigent, blunt force of authority.

Lerman, who came to fame playing the teenage Percy Jackson in the adventure fantasy film adaptations The Lightning Thief (2010) and Sea Of Monsters (2013), has grown into an actor of some sensitivity in films such as the comingof-age drama The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012) - and it is this quality that helps to keep this talky movie afloat.

As Marcus, he goes convincingly from bristling at the injustice of his interrogation by the dean for his decision to switch dorm rooms, to lashing out in a moment of exasperation. The price he pays turns out to be a heavy one, with war and death looming menacingly in the background.

The film also addresses Marcus' sexual awakening, but the sexual mores of the time seem so quaint now.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2016, with the headline 'Lost innocence'. Print Edition | Subscribe