Sean Penn has a vivid and melancholy directing style. His directing and performance in Flag Day make it a touching and emotional film, and the performances by his kids, especially daughter Dylan Penn, add depth. So the film is powerful, but it can also be hard to watch at times.
Flag Day is the true story of Jennifer Vogel, played by Dylan Penn, who grows up with a broken life and many struggles. Her father is John Vogel, played by Sean Penn. John is a con man and a criminal, and he is in and out of Jennifer’s life. Dylan also struggles with her mother Patty, played by Katheryn Winnick, who tries to convince Jennifer that her father is not a good man. But Jennifer is desperate for a relationship with her father, and she also hopes that her father can connect with his son Nick Vogel, played by Sean’s actual son Hopper.
Despite Jennifer’s efforts to help her father, he keeps falling back into crime. The emotional tension from her father makes it difficult for Jennifer to avoid relapsing into her own past drug use. But despite the obstacles, she picks herself up and tries to find other outlets to help her keep moving and still have faith in her father. Dylan’s performance as Jennifer is invigorating and impressive.
The interaction between Sean and his daughter Dylan in Flag Day is moving. With Sean having faced many challenges in his own life, seeing him perform with his daughter in Flag Day brings many touching, but sometimes difficult, moments. Sean does deliver one of his best performances since 21 Grams (2003) in Flag Day, and those two films have a similar feel.
I enjoyed Flag Day for its theme of reconnection between a daughter and a father. I also loved how Dylan’s performance thrives in a film directed by her father, and I appreciated Sean’s realism in both his directing and his performance in the film. But this is largely offset by the heavy and dark emotions of the film. Three stars for Flag Day.