Director: Sean Penn
Writers: Jez Butterworth, and John-Henty Butterworth
Starring: Dylan Penn, Sean Penn, and Josh Brolin
Flag Day is the sixth film directed by Sean Penn, and the first that he also stars in. Penn’s daughter, Dylan Penn, also joins him in this sombre story, which is based on the memoir Flim-Flam Man by Jennifer Vogel. The film focuses on Jennifer Vogel, played by Dylan Penn, and her relationship with her father, John Vogel.
The story takes place over two decades, following Jennifer as she’s growing up and coming to terms with her father. John is described as someone so charming he can get away with the dangerous things he commits. He’s someone who is always looking for new get-rich-quick schemes, no matter how many times things go wrong. At the centre of the story is the strained father/daughter relationship.
When Jennifer is still a child, her father leaves home and doesn’t keep in contact with his children. Life at home because rough and Jennifer seeks out her father, thinking he’s a changed man and for a short while things seem to be going well, until he gets arrested. The scene where Jennifer confronts her father in jail, questioning him on what happened without getting a straight answer, is the standout moment of the film. John is completely trapped on one side of the glass, police officer behind him, and he still can’t be truthful. She’s asking what the mark on his forehead is, and John can’t answer, deflecting her questions that he can’t see it. It’s the perfect summary of their relationship. John pushes Jennifer’s limits for forgiveness but still things he can push further.
Sean Penn and Dylan Penn are both excellent in the film, their real-life father/daughter relationship helps create the on-screen bond they share. You can completely understand why Jennifer is so willing to believe he’s changed, and why she can’t give up on him completely. The digital effects to de-age Sean Penn throughout the story is phenomenal, and seamless in the film. Equally great is the soundtrack, which features great new music from Eddie Vedder, who previously worked with Penn on his 2007 film, Into the Wild.
Sadly, the film doesn’t always connect on an emotional level. While the film is fast paced, you really feel the length and it starts to get tedious as the film reaches its conclusion. The story jumps from year to year, giving snapshots of Jennifer’s life and never settles long enough for you to really get an idea of who she is. There are moments where it becomes very hard to stay engaged with it.
Flag Day is a decent film, that’s heightened by the performances of Sean Penn and his daughter. It’s very close to being excellent, but it’s not something that will stay with you for a long time once the credits have rolled.
Flag Day is in cinemas and on digital 28 January from Vertigo Releasing
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