Flag Day by Sean Penn: a family story

Picture of the movie Flag Day © Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures


Cannes has welcomed him In Competition three times before, with The Indian Runner in 2000, The Pledge in 2001, and The Last Face in 2016. Sean Penn is both behind the camera and in front of it with Flag Day, selected In Competition, a veritable family epic adapted from the memoires of Jennifer Vogel, daughter of one of the greatest counterfeiters in the history of the United States.

Flim-Flam Man. This is the title that journalist and author Jennifer Vogel gave to her memoires, in which she recounts her family history and her tumultuous relationship with her father, who leads a double life as a crook. When producer William Horberg read the book, he immediately saw the possibility of a film adaptation. But it was only years later that Sean Penn took on the project, assisted by scriptwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth.

Gradually, the story about the Vogels intertwines with the story of Penn’s own family: Vogel is played by Sean Penn, Dylan Penn is chosen to play Vogel’s daughter, and Hopper Jack Penn plays Jennifer’s brother. Filmed for the most part in the Canadian province of Manitoba, where the landscapes depict the atmosphere of Minneapolis at the end of the twentieth century, this epic recounts the story of a broken family that is trying to restore their ties. The young woman has to learn not only to forgive, but also to detach herself from her past so that she can succeed in building her own identity.

With the changing seasons in Flag Day, the snowy suburbs give way to the golden wheat fields, and time passes, nursing the wounds of the past. Shot on an Arri camera using 16mm film rolls and old lenses, Sean Penn’s sixth film brings to the screen the authenticity and complexity of a father-daughter relationship.