When their mother is forced out of their home, siblings Michael and Donna struggle coming to terms with Coral, the eerie au pair who has taken her place. But for Michael, Coral isn’t the only threat. As tensions grow and his family becomes increasingly disconnected, he senses an insidious presence growing in the house, too.
This, in essence, is the premise of Father of Flies. Its narrative arc is unquestionably thin, but for director Ben Charles Edwards, this is calculated. Similar to surreal psychological thrillers like Blue Velvet, Jacob’s Ladder or The Machinist, Father of Flies relies on unreliable characters and ethereal settings to drive its anomalous plot line.
From the snow-coated, fairytale forest that surrounds the isolated house, to the kitsch props and decor of its claustrophobic innards, Edwards wants to submerge the audience in a world that never feels authentic, even when the emotions of the cast feel heartbreakingly relatable. Scenes fail to flow cohesively, while dreams and reality seamlessly amalgamate. This makes the picture feel like an art piece more than a film (the notably brief 75-minute running time adds to this aesthetic).
It isn’t until the very end that Father of Flies truly catches the audience off guard. The twist proves that Edwards had an agenda all along, that his disjointed scenes had a symbiosis we assumed they lacked. The director also proves that his cliched cast (the alien-like stepmum, the haunted child, the rebellious teenager, the emotionally reticent father) are not who we were led to believe.
Is the pleasantly unexpected (but undeniably unoriginal) finale worth the wait? Absolutely. Father of Flies, despite its flaws, is still a powerful parable about disintegrating families and stolen childhood. And the real-life death of Nicholas Tucci before the film’s release adds even more weight to his character’s fate.
Ben Charles Edwards
Ben Charles Edwards
11 April 2022