New Sean Penn’s film ‘Flag Day’ is about generational trauma. He directed it and played the role of John Vogel, Jennifer’s Vogel’s father (played by Penn’s daughter — Dylan Penn).
Jennifer Vogel wrote a book about her con artist father, mostly famous for counterfeiting the fourth-largest sum of US dollars (nearly $20 millions) and then being chased by the police on live tv. The script of the film was based on her ‘Flim-Flam Man: A True Family Story’ published in 2004. She became a journalist, after struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. She is very vulnerable in the book about her life and her family. She is not hiding any problems under the rag but faces them in an attempt of understanding her father and his traumas. The film is trying to do the same.
There are always some differences between books and their screen adaptations and in case it is probably caused by the fact that it became a love letter of a father (Sean Penn) to his daughter (Dylan Penn). Her mother is Robyn Wright and in some scenes we can see a subtle resemblance between the two actresses. Her brother Hopper Jack Penn, son of Sean Penn and Robyn Wright, also appears in the movie as Dylan’s brother. So the only missing bit is Robyn Wright playing their mother — that would complete the jigsaw, as it obviously is a family affair.
Every family has its own traumas that it needs to work through. Our parents were traumatized by their parents and so on. But if we do the work, we can stop the generational trauma and make sure that it is not passed on. Somebody has to do it and it looks like our generation is responsible for it. Our grandparents lived through the horrors of the war. Our parents started the epidemic of divorces on a mass scale, never seen before. And we are the first generation that has the understanding and tools needed to break that vicious cycle.
It looks like Jennifer Vogel did it. After the flee into drugs and alcohol, she finally decided to face the past and to learn from it. Instead of keeping on numbing herself, like the generations before her did, she faced the problems and felt the pain. Because healing is only possible through feeling. Feeling all the emotions in your body, letting them overwhelm you and then watching them pass. That is the only way through trauma and she seems to have learned it.
So if we should learn anything from this movie, it should be that understanding our parents and their issues is very important. We need to comprehend that they were acting from their state of consciousness and they couldn’t have acted differently at that time. And then we need to forgive them, and also forgive ourselves. Because that is the only way forward.
‘Flag Day’, released today in cinemas across the USA, is a film about American Dream that can change into a nightmare.