SXSW Film Review: My Father Die
Patricide on the bayou
By Richard Whittaker,
2:15PM, Tue. Mar. 15, 2016
Revenge is a human instinct, as Asher (Joe Anderson) explains via the internal monologue that flows through this Mississippi River revenge fable My Father Die. Must be true, because he’s pretty damn good at it.
His target is his father, Ivan (Gary Stretch), who has just been released from jail. That’s not enough penance for Asher, who lost his brother, his hearing, and his innocence to his father’s granite fists.
First-time director Sean Brosnan (son of Pierce, who also produces) steals a long, hard swig from Jim Thompson’s moonshine brand of febrile, feral, Southern hatred. His Louisiana is infested by bikers, charlatan preachers, and indigent scumbags, which makes gator-hunting Asher the best of a bad lot. But when his first instinct on hearing of his father’s release is to tool up and beat the man to death, well, he’s no saint.
Superficially, the narrative arc of self-destructive revenge hews close to the deep tones of Blue Ruin, but without its questioning morality. True, it feels like a fantasy version of Louisiana, but then it’s the literary fever dream version of the bayou. Brosnan’s epic approach, melded with tiny details (like having Asher’s inner monologue be his voice as a child, the last time he had one) gives it lush, poetic life. Then he lets the violence rip with two standout performances by British actors. First Anderson, who between this and WGN’s Outsiders, has cornered the market on wiry redneck: For Asher, he creates a good man whose life was built on a foundation of violence. Then Stretch, a bear of a man, a god of menace, who brings his own damage as a former boxer to Ivan’s implacable malice.
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