Starring Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Julianne Moore
Directed by Paul Wietz
This is a very belated 'take' on the memoir turned movie, Being Flynn, originally entitled Another Bullshit Night In Suck City written by poet Nick Flynn.
I am not sure why it's taken me so long to write this; I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago. I think initially I was just too raw and wrecked to write about it. It's a very compelling but very emotional movie. I might go so far as to say depressing but somehow it escapes that level of heartache.
Anyway, as the days passed my old memory forgot I hadn't committed anything to paper. But I was reminded when I saw someone else's review today, someone who said that despite the emotional roughness of the material, that it was at times a very humorous film.
Um, no, it's not. That's not how I recall it anyway.
Nick Flynn spent his childhood watching his mother go through a series of boyfriends while her husband, his father, Jonathan Flynn, was in jail. He would get letters from this father periodically claiming to be one of "the great American writers" but he was never part of his son's life.
Flynn has his issues with substance abuse too. And like his father - or at least like his father says he is - Nick wants to be a writer as well.
It is a movie full of insight into relationships and the people we keep at a distance...whether they are the homeless who wrap themselves in plastic to keep out the snow and the rain, or parents and children who wrap themselves up in the daily grind of the world to avoid each other. The fathers and sons who have great and completely unrealistic expectations of each other. We can try to save each other but in the end we can only take care of ourselves, and we are lucky if we can do that.
The Harbor Light mission where Dano's Nick Flynn works provides a bed and a meal in exchange for sober rule-following guests. When the father Jonathan Flynn loses it in a violent outburst, he ultimately loses his privileges and he's banned from the shelter. Flynn has to decide to help or disappear into his own life and his own problems.
This is not, let me repeat, not a humorous movie. Knowing it's a memoir makes the pain all the more real. Knowing, for instance, that the movie company used many actual homeless people as their background people, only enhances our shock, disgust, dismay and finally, understanding and hopefully, empathy. Don't we all want to stare when we see a homeless person in the street. Except that's the last thing we can actually do. If we give a handout, we do it quickly, as anonymously as possible; terrified what our connection may lead to. The close up look at the dirt, the sqaualor, the many many homeless people who have mental illness is tough to take. It's diffiuclt to fathom, and painful to consider. The director, Paul Weitz, who also directed the much lighter About A boy, very deftly has taken Nick Flynn's less constructed memoir and given it shape and an easier to follow storyline. Easier to follow but still difficult to take.
The performances are all fine, as is the score from Badly Drawn Boy. If you are lucky enough to find Being Flynn playing in a theater near you and if you are in the mood for a movie with depth that will make you think as well as feel, consider this well-made gem.
For more information on homeless shelters go to homelessshelterssite.org