Writer: Sean Brosnan
Cast: Joe Anderson, Candace Smith, Gary Stretch, John Schneider, Gabe White
Cert: 18 TBC
Running time: 102mins
What’s the story: 12-year-old Asher is violently assaulted and his brother Chester murdered by their biker father Ivan when he discovers Chester sleeping with his mistress. Left deaf after the ordeal, years later Asher vows revenge when his father is released from prison.
What’s the verdict: Watching My Father Die, you would think Sean Brosnan has serious daddy issues. Then you discover Sean’s dad is one-time 007 Pierce Brosnan, who also co-produces the film.
Leaving you thinking Pierce should be the one raging that he didn’t land the plum role of the psychopathic Ivan. Not that Gary Stretch disappoints; he creates a frighteningly memorable movie monster.
Soon it becomes apparent that rather than exorcising daddy demons, debuting writer-director Brosnan is producing an accomplished calling card movie. Brimming with ambition, (over)loaded with Old Testament religious subtext and artistic allusions, My Father Die is the work of someone looking to make an impact.
With The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mud, Fight Club, Blue Ruin and the Gary Stretch starring Dead Man’s Shoes as touchstone inspirations.
The plot is starkly straightforward. Asher hunts Ivan, reverse and repeat, reverse and repeat. Carrying the film is stylish, atmospheric direction, strongly written characters and committed performances.
Brosnan can handle quiet domestic scenes, escalating tension and violent carnage with assured, widescreen aplomb, and has a knack for effective character shorthand (the adult Asher’s inner monologue is his 12-year-old voice, the diabolical Ivan is reborn from rape).
Plus, the director has an eye for David Lynch-style unsettling oddness – Asher’s obese God-bothering mother obsessively watching a religious sermon on local TV, the adult Nana exercises to a workout video the wrong side of sleaze, creepy alligator skins hang near the bank of the Mississippi.
But, Brosnan leaves too many loose ends and plot holes, mainly involving cops on the case including John Schneider of Dukes of Hazzard fame, and Asher’s deafness being forgotten during the climactic showdown.
Artistic overload includes a verbose hard-to-hear narration from Gabe White as the younger Asher and a surplus of on-the-nose religious paintings including Saturn Devouring His Son and Abraham and Isaac that come across as try-hard.
The UK born Anderson (Mason Verger in Hannibal season 3) delivers an raw wordless performance as Asher, Candace Smith is all scarred strength as the abused Nana and Gary Stretch brings a shocking, brutal physicality to a role that could easily have gone to a bigger actor.
The ending is predictable but satisfying, leaving you wondering which family member Brosnan will target for his next movie.
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