Movie review A life on the run

John Vogel (Sean Penn) is a thief and incurable liar who thrives on expedients, frequently changing jobs and homes as soon as his creditors start looking for him. On his wanderings in the United States, he takes his family, formed by his wife Patty (Katheryn Winnick), by his son Nick (Hopper Jack Penn) and daughter Jennifer (Dylan Penn). A life constantly on the run because John is willing to change everything – place, home, “work” and friendships – except the bad flaw of cheating others.

Film A life on the run - video

Plot of the film A life on the run

His adventurous existence is told by his daughter Jennifer who traces its salient points, starting from her happy childhood, spent in the prairies of Minnesota, when she sees in the nonconformist figure of her father a model to inspire herself. Peter Pan calls him his wife, due to his rash and mysterious plans, but the spell doesn’t last long, the reality is different and the family must leave Minnesota to avoid problems.

The picture becomes increasingly difficult. John disappears taken from his shady trades, Patty sinks into alcoholism, becoming unable to find a job and take care of her children, who decide to go and live with their father, convinced to rediscover the magic that had marked their childhood . The reality is obviously very different and after a brief idyllic period, Nick and Jennifer have to go back to their mother, while John makes him lose track of him again.

Jennifer becomes a problematic teenager who is unable to fit into her mother’s new family or even to build an emotional relationship with her father, who continues to live off illegal expedients and activities. She then decides to look for a path of her own, to live alone, to study, to become an investigative journalist because she “wants to leave a mark” behind her. Her father also wants to leave a mark of her of her existence, but this can only go in the opposite direction.

The many strengths of the film A Life on the Run

The film is the adaptation of the book Flim-Flam Man: The True Story of My Father’s Counterfeit Life by Jennifer Vogel, inspired in short by the true story of John Vogel, swindler, robber, drug dealer and forger. On a narrative level, the work has a circular structure: it starts from the end to return to the same point after a long flash back. The story is divided into certain periods, told by Jennifer Vogel, corresponding to precise moments in her existence, including from 1972 to 1992.

For Dylan Penn, chosen to tell the story of the real father-daughter relationship, the film represented the first major work, where she successfully played a difficult role, full of highly dramatic situations: a daughter who loves a parent unable to make it a fair one, more of an obstacle than a help in his search for a role in the world of adults. The parent-daughter relationship, on the set as in life, made the two parts very credible, well-knit with each other, a success also favored by a role suited to the stylistic code of Sean Penn, who finds himself playing the part of an adult remained a child, in search of a shortcut that allows him to make up for lost time, to be successful in life.

After all
A life on the run (Flag Day the title in English) is a film where family ties are very important and for the role of Nick Vogel, Jennifer’s brother, another member of the Penn family was chosen, Hopper Jack, son of Sean and brother of Dylan.

Beyond any comment, there is no doubt that such teamwork has contributed to the success of the work, in turn embellished by the choice to shoot the film using a 16 mm film and not digitally as it is now customary to work. In this way, light and color appeared to be suitable for the period they represented, the 70s and 90s, giving the story a nostalgic setting that the digitized image would not have been able to communicate to the public.

A vintage operation enhanced by a soundtrack, composed of the songs of the singer-songwriter Cat Powerfrom Glen Hansard and from Eddie Vedderthe latter co-founder, frontman and main lyricist of the Pearl Jamthirteen songs perfectly capable of reconstructing the melancholy climate that dominates the whole film.

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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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