FILM REVIEW: My Father Die (2016)
Premiering at South by Southwest, My Father Die is a heartwarming tale of the special bond between a father and son. There’s nothing better than seeing the beaming smile from a parent as he embraces his boy after a long time missing in action. The pure joy these two feel for one another lights up the screen with every frame – it’s a real crowd pleaser, the perfect date movie. Or the classic movie when exploring what makes us human, all the way down to our hearts.
My Father Die is a the flawed storm of rapidfire filmmaking that has more in common with Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino than anything out of the Field of Dreams cannon with all of its hugs and aw shucks moments.
Instead, we’re treated to Sean Brosnan’s debut and boy, does it not pull punches. In fact, it lands every jab, cross, and hook. And if the raucous crowds the film attracted during it’s three SXSW showings, the film is well on its way to either breaking through or dangling on the line as a cult classic.
My Father Die’s story moves at a Gatling gun pace while never giving you a chance to ask questions. If you needed one word to sum up My Father Die’s pace, it would simply be breakneck. There’s shotgun blasts, toes blown off and a hell of a lot of gasoline burnt. Folks die and revenge in carved with a death hand.
A classic southern preacher stands at his pulpit calling the crowd into a fever while a man-child gathers his wits and gets ready to kill. A mother holds the son who doesn’t know his father, all because hell is on the loose.
My Father Die is the story of a man who murders his son while his other watches, in gruesome detail. And for what? His oldest boy, Chester was caught fooling around with the neighbor girl, who happened to be his father’s side candy. Asher, his younger son watches in horrible, blow-by-blow as his father strikes his brother to death with no remorse. And to wit, his father gives him a little taste as well, leaving Asher mute.
And for the rest of Asher’s life, he’s driven by one thought: avenging his dead brother. We see Asher develop into a man consumed, a man whose sole passion in life was to be ready for this moment. Asher’s father is no ordinary man, he’s a tattooed psycho, who happened to be a champion boxer, and happens to be the leader of a biker gang, no big deal or anything. He spends a long stint in the clink, and before anyone in town is ready, dear old dad is let off the chain. Immediately, Asher gets to work shadowboxing and sawing off the end of a shotgun.
One of the contextual strengths of My Father Die is the role the father plays. He’s a harken back to the classic trope of the monster who cannot die. As much as Asher tries, the old man is tougher than leather, harder than nails. Yes, he takes a beating, but he’s one tough son of a bitch.
The film’s shots are big and picturesque. They’re more like a moving painting than just a movie; everything feels planned down to the essential seconds of narration. For a debut film, Brosnan does a bang up job letting the world know he’s arrived and ready to play. My Father Die feels like a Joe Lansdale novel: grim yet hopeful.
With every brilliantly paced sequence and moment that let you in on what the south feels like. Despite Brosnan being a California boy, his eye for the southern gothic shines through. Set in the bayous of Louisiana, My Father Die is like if you took Kill Bill’s flavor, Se7en’s darkness and married them with Gummo. There are a lot of shades of humanity in disrepair all along My Father Die’s bumpy ride.
The heart and soul of My Father Die will warm of the deepest recesses of the hearts of fans who like stuff like The Walking Dead, Boondock Saints, and the uber revenge movie: Oldboy. Like in Oldboy where the main character is driven by his lonely madness, My Father Die’s protagonist, Asher is his equal in boiling red hatred. Hopefully, we’ll see the flick pop in places like The El Rey Network, where the movies thematic overtones will resonate with the channel’s core audience.
If you’re a Netflix junkie, My Father Die feels like a Care Bear Cousin to the recently released Italian film Subarru. It’s fast, edgy and has a killer soundtrack that goes from sonic overdrive to whispers in a matter of seconds, and it all works, in this odd-timed, jangly kind of way. Music plays a massive role, going from thrash, to grind, then to Delta blues and classic country all within acts of one another.
But, the thing that strikes the hardest about My Father Die is the narration. From the jump, we’re aware that Asher is mute, but his inner monolog isn’t the man who wants to be, or assumes to be, but it’s his voice when he was a child – the age when he watched his brother die. The moments and memories of that day drive the narrative of the film, and all throughout the view feels a sense of ownership toward Asher’s revenge, no matter how far of lengths he goes to kill his father.
Don’t sleep on My Father Die. You won’t regret it. It’s got everything a horror nerd loves, but all of the tricks a dedicated pop culture realist needs too. It’s bare-bones genre filmmaking at its finest, it ain’t about to win any Oscars, but it sure as hell will win the hearts of bastards who are looking for the next movie to show their friends.