As for the performance given by lead actors, excepting for Elina Lowensohn’s stand-out central performance, none of the other actors evince much energy, especially Neil Patrick Harris in the lead role. Even accommodating for the fact that Jimmy Burden is a reserved character in the film, he nowhere nearly capture the emotional turmoil that Cather portrayed so eloquently.
One of the larger themes covered by the movie is the disparate treatment meted out to immigrant communities. This is most evident in the ordeals of the Shimerda family in assimilating with the local community in Black Hawk, Nebraska. Willa Cather was a writer of great cultural and social sensitivity. And the film My Antonio successfully captures the thrust and emphasis of her presentation of American social problems. For example, reviewer Tom Wiener correctly notes in his review article that
“The strongest portrayal in the film is the plight of European immigrants and in particular the young women. As Antonia plaintively says, “Girls like me don’t get chances,” and although she almost blows what she thinks is her best shot, she does land on her feet–no thanks to the self-absorbed Jimmy. A longer film might have given more screen time to the liberated character of Lena Lingard, Antonia’s Swedish friend and Jimmy’s first real lover, to enhance this point. Victoria Riskin’s script is adequate, but it’s forced at times to resort to voiceover narration that spells out what adroitly composed dialogue and more forceful direction might have dramatized.” (Tom Wiener, Rovi)
The director Joseph Sargent has to be given a credit for pulling off a fine balancing act. If any faults are to be found, they lay in the technical aspects such as cinematography and background score. Apart from this, only some minor elements of the novel could not properly be translated into the film version, which is a reflection of the low budget that went into production. Moreover, considering that the film was intended for a television audience, the parameters of critical assessment are slightly different for this film. This is one reason why many scenes of intimacy were either cut short or entirely cut-out from the film, making it easy to gain a PG viewer rating and as a result a broader reach.
Tom Wiener, Rovi , My Antonia : New York Times Review, New York Times, retrieved from < http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/152181/My-Antonia/overview> on 25th june, 2011