A life on the run. Sean Penn’s film review

In competition at Cannes 2021, the film directed and starring the American actor, alongside his daughter Dylan Penn, investigates the complicated relationship between a young woman and her father between the 70s and 90s.

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Shot in 16mm and based on a true story, the new film directed by Sean Penn starts with all the credentials to be a product on the edge of indie. The style of A life on the run (title quite misleading compared to the original, Flag Day) it winks at a film tradition of American flags, ranches and crime and still brings home its decent result. A life on the run works mostly at the beginning and at the end. The central part, however, is at times too exasperated, emphatic in the narration of John Vogel’s criminal path and his tormented relationship with his daughter Jennifer, played by one of Penn’s two sons, Dylan. The other, Hopper Jack Penn instead stars as Jennifer’s brother, Nick Vogel.

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Based on the autobiographical novel Flim-Flam Man: The True Story of My Father’s Counterfeit Life by Jennifer Vogel, A life on the run it tells of a father who does not make a right one and a daughter who continues to love him miserably all, all framed by a raw, warm and intimate photograph which is one of the strengths of the film. We really get excited only at the end, the moment in which the tensions between the two and also between the viewer and the film itself inevitably dissolve. Sean Penn convinces in the interpretation of a confused father, always on the verge of yet another criminal act, madly in love with life, to the point of always pushing himself one step away from death. And on the other side of her Jennifer, with her bright future and her marked journalistic skills, silenced several times by that parent whom she idealized as a hero as a child. Yet that is one of those dreams that are made only as children and, growing up, Jennifer realizes how that father is more a hindrance to her career than a boast. Dylan Penn’s proof lacks a bit of that vitality that has always characterized his father’s stylistic imprint. Squeezed into her role, the young actress could have fitted the performance more and really lifted the film, but overall she gives a slightly wrinkled air to her character.

Original title: Flag Day
Director: Sean Penn
Performers: Dylan Penn, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Regina King, Katheryn Winnick, Eddie Marsan, Hopper Penn, Norbet Leo Butz, Dale Dickey, Bailey Noble, Jadyn Rylee, Billy Smith
Distribution: Lucky Red
Duration: 109 ′
Origin: USA, UK, Canada 2021

The evaluation of the film by Sentieri Selvaggi

The vote of the readers


2.04
(26 votes)

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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