Film, Drama
2 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)

A young Jewish man heads to college in this weak adaptation of Philip Roth's novel

This is a cautious, conservative and muted adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2008 novel ‘Indignation’, written and directed by veteran producer and writer James Schamus (best known for working with filmmakers including Ang Lee and Todd Haynes). Set in the US in the early ’50s at the time of the Korean War, it tells of a young Jewish man, Marcus (Logan Lerman), the son of a New Jersey butcher and the first in his family to go to university. Once at college in Ohio, diligent, self-questioning Marcus starts an on-off romance with fragile, troubled Olivia (Sarah Gadon) and has ideological run-ins with the dean (Tracy Letts).

‘Indignation’ is an intricately designed and thoughtful film, but it lacks life, and the performances feel buttoned-down and directionless at times. It’s hard to talk about exactly why the film doesn’t fully work without giving away the big conceit of Roth’s story (and Schamus’s film). But it’s enough to say that this book offers a challenge to any filmmaker that the movie of ‘Indignation’ doesn’t quite meet. It’s a mildly interesting coming-of-age tale and reflection of mid-twentieth-century America, but nothing more.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday November 18 2016
Duration: 110 mins

Cast and crew

Director: James Schamus
Screenwriter: James Schamus
Cast: Sarah Gadon
Logan Lerman
Tracy Letts

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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A beautifully crafted film in muted colour.Lots of leather shoes on creaking dark wood floors,amongst an educational climate.The acting is excellent, particularly from the two leads.Music kept to a minimum and narrative kept to a maximum..It is a very sad film,about the narrowness of living in the 1950s,of unfulfilled yearnings and austerity.Not a mainstream film but one more for the patient filmgoer.4 stars


Indignation was first shown in London as part of the Sundance London film festival. Based on a Philip Roth novel, it is set in Columbus, Ohio. It is the story of a New York boy's first semester at college. The whole film is a flashback to 1951, showing how decisions made at that time, led to the position that he is in now.

This film is James Schamus' first as director and he does an amazing job of immersing us in the milieu and mindset of the day. The sets and costumes are beautiful, with a lovely eye for detail.

Logan Lerman is excellent as Marcus Messner, an idealistic young man, setting out on life. His exchanges with the dean of the college and his relationship with his first girlfriend, adroitly show both the attitudes of the time and how they are about to change. Tracy Letts and Sarah Gadon are very good as the dean and the girlfriend.

Indignation is a precise, deep film and a brave choice as a directorial debut.

James Schamus' self-confidence has paid off well.