Flag Day, by Sean Penn: my father, this hero

CRITICAL – In official competition at the last Cannes Film Festival, Sean Penn’s film features his daughter Dylan and plunges into an America on the alert. Great art.

Dad is a crook. Go build, with that. Since her childhood, Jennifer has been banging against the windows. His father is never there. He robs banks, sets up scams not possible. Truth is not his style. Then John ends up leaving the family home, disappears for good, leaving the teenager and her brother with their alcoholic and depressed mother. The charm he had, though. She remembers the times when he tried to convince her that Nocturnes by Chopin were worth a thousand times the songs of Pete Seeger.

With him, it could have been Christmas every day. He was born on June 14 and believed that the national holiday was organized just for him. There was tonight when he took them in an amphibious car. Fireworks lit up the river. Yes, but he also sowed grief around him. Disorder was the rule.

To grow up, Jennifer ran away. It was the only solution. Question of survival. She’s tried drugs, been in squats. His vocation as a journalist fortunately anchored to the body. It was his buoy, his hope. From time to time, papa would reappear. With the same lies, amazing projects. How can I stand that? It ended in cries, hasty departures.

Sympathetic duplicity

This is what it is to dream out loud, to bamboozle your entourage, to owe money to people you shouldn’t. Still, she decided to love him. It is not an easy task. He managed to break her heart over and over again. She’s had enough of these zigzags of feelings. He’s so disappointing, so predictable.

When she hears from him, it’s through an FBI agent telling her that he has printed $ 22 million in counterfeit bills (only 50,000 have passed). He falsifies his CV, talks about opening a photocopier store, invents an improbable jeans stretcher. Who is going to buy this? Their relations are full of turbulence. It’s stronger than him. He assures her that he has ordered a Jaguar for her. The streak where he’s supposed to have the dealer on the phone is hilarious.

With Flag Day, in official competition at the last Cannes Film Festival, Sean Penn revives his vein of yesteryear, erases the bad memory of The Last Face . This love letter from a father to his daughter (Dylan Penn is Jennifer) crosses landscapes à la Malick (this hand that slides in the wheat), plunges into an America on the alert, not afraid of lyricism. This mythomaniac with a sympathetic, almost touching duplicity, leaves behind a trail of desolation. What happened to the little girl who drew a cowboy for him on the edge of a Minnesota highway?

Dylan can trust Sean. He offered her this role, as a gift, as an excuse. At the end, there is a chase. Police sirens are approaching. In the dust and noise. In the sky, helicopters buzz with news channels. John continues to lie. This is the last time. Promised.


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