American Fable is a 2016 American gothic fairytale. It takes place in the heartland of America, the Midwest. 5 out of 10 stars. I was underwhelmed.
Eleven year old Gitty spends her days walking the cornfields of her Midwestern farm with her pet chicken. Her father Abe dotes on her. Her mother Sarah, who works in a factory all day and then comes home to cook and clean for her family, tolerates this favoritism. Her brother Martin is a bully and early on in the film almost takes off Gitty’s hand with an ax. While the local farmers are committing suicide at an alarming rate from having their farms foreclosed upon, Abe does a favor for a woman named Vera which results in being able to pay their mortgage. In exchange for holding a “package” for Vera, she’s giving Abe money. The package turns out to be an investor who is buying up all the foreclosed farmland. Gitty comes across the investor, Jonathan, quite by accident when she sees him being held prisoner in their family’s grain silo.
The rest of the film is told somewhat in a gothic manner as Gitty’s life revolves around her father, their farm, and the stories/riddles Jonathan tells her each time she brings him food. The viewer is torn between thinking Jonathan is an innocent man or a monster. A man who takes advantage of people, stealing their land, is more of a monster who is getting what he richly deserves no matter how many times or ways he says “someone else would’ve bought it anyway”. Jonathan himself starts his relationship with Gitty by telling her the story of the lion and the mouse. The mouse frees the lion and in return the lion frees the mouse. Only Abe tells Gitty a different version, one in which the lion eats the mouse after it frees him, claiming all animals are true to their nature.
Flaws in the film include the trite dialogue, much of which is completely pointless and out of touch with what real people say, the naivete of Gitty who believes everything Jonathan tells her and is completely oblivious to her family’s plight although she hears her family talking about it constantly, and the bizarre character Vera who never comes up with a compelling reason for what it is she’s doing.
It’s apparent that the producers wanted this to be a fairytale. If you doubt this, look at the rope Gitty uses to climb down the silo to visit Jonathan. It’s nothing more than twine. So really, this is a horror film with a bizarre twist.
Reviewed by Betsy.