A great human tragedy needn’t be a sensational monologue about a devastated life or an unrequited love followed by a gut-wrenching sword plunge. It could simply be that brief moment during one of those nights when a man working in a homeless shelter witnesses his father standing at the counter as a homeless guest. With such great many tragedies, Being Flynn sets your heart on fire on several moments but douses it with equally enthralling performances by the lead actors.
Dano’s and De Niro’s roles don’t rhyme each other as do their names. Their roles convince the viewers that they are boxing inside the ring of an estranged relationship, which is characterized by indifference, through the scenes where they grab the narrative from each other like two kids fighting for a cotton candy.
Jonathan Flynn, played by De Niro, spontaneously evicts himself overnight from being an upstanding citizen to being downright homeless who wouldn’t be allowed to take a cup of tea inside the parlor. Nick Flynn, played by Dano, picks up the pieces after his mother’s death and finds a job that provides meaning to his existence. The film is a consciously overt portrayal of how emotional strength overrides physical damnation as vividly expressed in a scene where Jonathan Flynn raises his hand against his son grunting, “I am not a drowning man. I am a survivor, an artist.”
Being Flynn draws a bold parallel between falling apart from a grandiose self-image and finding a purpose by staying grounded. The world has a place for both of them and that’s the only thing that runs in common. You experience a certain difference in the way a father and a son take on each other unlike many movies where there is an instant bonding after years of alienation. How indifference between them thickens into a cold mold and then silently breaks into something bracingly warm is outstandingly outlined by De Niro’s class performance in an abrupt climax.
Being Flynn is not a father-son reunion story that exemplifies the joy of relationships. It’s a naturally compelling story that tells you that you are always destined to know your roots, and, no matter how irredeemable it is, accept it.