My Father Die, 2016.
Directed by Sean Brosnan.
Starring Joe Anderson, John Schneider, Kevin Gage, Sean Brosnan, Gary Stretch, Gabe White, Candace Smith, Chester Rushing, and William Mark McCullough.
A deaf mute takes revenge on the man that killed his brother, only that man happens to be his father.
Revenge thrillers are two-a-penny, especially in the direct-to-DVD market, and with the plots of most of them being relatively similar – let’s face it, how many ways are there to show somebody wronged and then getting their own back? – it takes something special to elevate a film from the rest of the pack. Right from the off My Father Die sets itself apart from the rest by making a few interesting choices that set up a main plot rife with subtext and the ability to keep you glued to the screen right until the end.
Beginning with a poetic voiceover from a child set to black-and-white imagery the film rolls in gently with two adolescent brothers discussing sex, with older sibling Chester (Chester Rushing – Stranger Things) telling his younger brother Asher (Gabe White – The Surface) what to do, and while their actual conversation may not be the most mature in the world it sets up the fact that these are two innocent boys enjoying their childhood and doing the things that young boys do. All of this innocence is shattered, though, once the boys’ jealous father Ivan (Gary Stretch – Dead Man’s Shoes) interrupts Chester having sex with the local trailer trash, proceeding to beat his eldest son to death and also giving Asher a good hiding, permanently deafening the boy. We then fast forward 20 years, the film switches to colour and a grown-up Asher (Joe Anderson – The Crazies), now deaf and mute, receives the news that his father is being released from prison and so prepares for a showdown with the violent brute.
And there is the revenge angle that feeds the plot – a man getting revenge for the death of his brother against his own father. Set in Louisiana, My Father Die is a southern fried Gothic-noir revenge thriller that pins you to the wall from the outset and doesn’t let go, roughing you up as Ivan and Asher come to blows during several scenes of brutal violence and finally dropping you to the floor once the poignant but inevitable ending has choked the breath out of you, and that isn’t overstating the effect that this twisted look at father and son relationships has once you have sat through it.
Gary Stretch gives what is probably his best performance here as the primal bully Ivan, a man who has no love for his children and isn’t bothered about anyone knowing that. It isn’t a dialogue-heavy role and although many tough-guy actors could do with fewer speaking parts it is to Stretch’s credit that he acts so well through his movements and facial expressions, and despite what many commentators may say, not saying much and performing and creating a character with just your body isn’t an easy thing to do. Oozing menace and a barely-tamed viciousness, Stretch is fantastic as Ivan and, despite not getting to say much, leaves an impression, as does Joe Anderson who also doesn’t say much either. In fact, he doesn’t say anything but again creates a character that you fully accept straightaway and want to find the peace he is looking for. After thinking he has killed Ivan, Asher hooks up with old friend Nana (Candace Smith – End of Watch) – the subject of Chester’s affections at the beginning of the film – to lay low for a bit and here the film finds its heart as Asher, Nana and her young son bond and, for a while at least, create a superficial family unit for Asher to belong to. It is a fairly long section of the film but it is vital in building up that emotional core as it goes into its final act and Ivan closes in on the young couple.
With strong support from Kevin Gage (Heat) as Ivan’s equally low-life friend Tank and also featuring William Mark McCullough as a cop in pursuit, My Father Die is violent, tense and also touching in equal measure, racing by in 86 minutes without really stopping for breath, and although the black-and-white flashback scenes and narration that pepper some of the later action is reaching a little high considering the limitations of the genre, it does make the point that Asher still hears the voice of his younger self in his head and that perhaps the sins of his father aren’t a million miles from where he himself is heading. The stylistic flurries may be a little ambitious and the Freudian message hammered home a little hard but the film itself is never less than engaging and as a directorial debut Sean Brosnan will have his work cut out on his next movie. We wait with interest…
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★