Sean Penn’s sixth feature as director is a well-acted two-hander, detailing the relationship between a young woman and her errant, criminal father.
Written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Ford V Ferrari, Edge of Tomorrow, Fair Game) and adapted from journalist Jennifer Vogel’s memoir ‘_Flim-Flam Man: The True Story of My Father’s Counterfeit Life_’, it stars Dylan Penn as a young woman looking back on her life with and without her habitual criminal father. John Vogel is a petty thief, confidence trickster and narcissist who believes his every act is for his family’s good. We see his behaviour in flashback, his style of parenting veering between the bizarre and dangerous. His relationship with his wife (Katheryn Winnick, The Vikings), like that of his children, relays between moments of levity and conflict. But for the most part, John is absent because he appears singularly inept at everything he does. And yet, through all of his mistakes, he also shows how much he cares for his family.
A return to form after the misfire of The Last Face, Flag Day once again finds Penn as a director turning to the influence of 1970s US cinema. The drama plays out in a lower register and is driven more by character than a propulsive storyline. This allows Penn, his daughter Dylan and Winnick to fully develop their characters, while allowing us to be immersed into this world. The drama moves seamlessly between the mid-1970s and early-1990s, accompanied by a rich soundtrack of original songs by Eddie Vedder, Cat Power and Glen Hansard, while the cast also includes Josh Brolin, Regina King, Eddie Marsan and Penn’s son Hooper, playing Jennifer’s younger brother.