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Parents' Guide to

Flag Day

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Teen drug use, violence in draggy, mournful drama.

Movie R 2021 107 minutes
Flag Day Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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It has some lovely moments, but Penn's drama ultimately falls apart with its woozy, shaky camerawork, mournful soundtrack, and draggy rhythms, not to mention what feels like a tad too much ego. While Flag Day is based on a true story, Penn's casting of himself and his daughter Dylan in a story about a daughter who worships her father creates a kind of shadow over things; it's difficult to forget who we're watching and become wrapped up in the story. Both actors are excellent, and they manage to save a few of their scenes -- some of the smaller moments recall Penn's excellent early work as a director -- but the movie's overall tone and pace are a trial.

Penn appears to have been inspired by Terrence Malick, whose masterpiece The Tree of Life he acted in, so he tries some of the same drifting, meditative movements, accompanied by free-flowing narration. But Penn's shaky, frequently aimless camerawork misses Malick's sublime visuals by a mile. Taking place over the course of many years, the movie can't seem to find a sense of pace, and things seem to crawl along for great stretches, with many montages. And the too frequent dirge-like songs on the soundtrack serve to pull the mood down even further. Weirdest of all is the final takeaway from Flag Day. It celebrates Jennifer Vogel's self-made success, but it also seems to celebrate John's reckless life, admiring him for burning out rather than fading away.

Movie Details

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