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Southern Gothic tales don’t get any swampier than Sean Brosnan’s debut feature about a deaf-mute young man intent on exacting violent revenge on his abusive father. Visually stunning but strained by pretentious poeticism and a simplistic storyline, My Father Die is ultimately as labored as its ungrammatical title.
The black-and-white prologue sets up the story, depicting the loving bond between teenage Chester and his younger brother Asher. Chester decides to initiate his sibling into the joys of copulation by introducing him to Nana, a willing young neighbor. But before the deed can be consummated, their father Ivan (Gary Stretch) bursts onto the scene. Angered by their encroachment on his own sexual territory, Ivan kills Chester and beats Asher so brutally that the younger boy loses his hearing.
Cut to 10 years later, when Asher (Joe Anderson, delivering an impressive silent performance) learns that his father is being released from prison early because of overcrowding. Donning his brother’s favorite wolf-skin headdress, Asher sets out to track down his father, whose aggressive tendencies have not been lessened by his prison stint.
Narrating the proceedings in the childlike voice he had before losing his ability to speak, Asher proves himself just as capable of brutality as his father, who shortly after being released beats a gay cop (John Schneider) to death just for coming on to him. During his pursuit, Asher reunites with Nana (Candace Smith), now the mother of a little boy.
Despite the strong performances — the physically imposing Stretch is truly scary as the sociopathic father — and gorgeous cinematography by Marc Shap, My Father Die never comes to dramatic life. Feeling like a parody of thematically similar revenge tales, the film is unable to overcome its stifling air of artificiality. In the end credits, writer/director Brosnan (son of Pierce, who has a producer credit) dedicates the film to Irish playwright John Millington Synge. But any comparisons to the author of The Playboy of the Western World are likely to be less than flattering.
Production company: KnightMarcher
Cast: Joe Anderson, Gary Stretch, Candace Smith, Kevin Gage, Rose Britz, Thomas Francis Murphy, Gabe White
Director-screenwriter: Sean Brosnan
Producers: Sean Brosnan, Sanja Banic, Orian Williams, Alma Bogdan-Turner, Pierce Brosnan
Executive producers: Daniel J. Hahn
Director of photography: Marc Shap
Production designer: Mark Nelson
Editor: Jason Eric Perlman
Costume designer: Gina Ruiz
Composers: Justin Small, Ohad Benchetrit
Casting: Brent Caballero, J.C. Cantu
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