LOS ANGELES, May 29 (UPI) -- John Hawkes plays a widowed father reconnecting with his son in End of Sentence, premiering Friday on video-on-demand services. Hawkes hopes life imitates art and brings families who watch the film closer.
Hawkes plays Frank Fogle, a widower honoring his late wife's last request to spread her ashes in Ireland. She insisted their estranged son, Sean (Logan Lerman), join him. The journey begins contentiously, but hardships on the road bond them together. Hawkes hopes the message is that it's possible to reconcile.
"My wish is that a father and son who have been holed up and at each other's throats might happen to sit and watch the movie and somehow get along a tiny bit better," Hawkes told UPI in a phone interview Tuesday.
Frank and Sean seem like oil and water. Frank is gentle and takes hardships in stride, even when those hardships include animosity from Sean. Sean lashed out at Frank all his life, and lived a life of petty crime that landed Sean in prison for auto theft.
Sean hasn't calmed since his release, and Hawkes thinks they might be more alike deep down because of the issues Frank is repressing.
"Underneath that decency and that kind of strained calm that he wears, there's a lot of I think grief and frustration and rage inside of him," Hawkes said. "[He] is an interesting character to play."
The Fogles' road trip through Ireland reveals some family history to the audience. On occasion, Frank and Sean come to blows over their past. Sean resents Frank, but Frank feels a combination of resentment toward Sean and guilt over his role in letting the family dynamic fall apart.
"I feel like he'd probably have some anger about how his son turned out," Hawkes said. "Some of it is probably turned inward, as well. He feels pretty haunted."
Behind the scenes, Hawkes and Lerman got along well. While staying at a Dublin hotel, Hawkes said, the actors met on Sundays to go over the week's scenes.
"It was just really enjoyable to try and ferret out the truth of each scene, of the story as a whole," Hawkes said. "Where do we connect to it? Where does it make us feel alive and where it doesn't?"
Hawkes says he approaches each role wondering how he's going to play it. Forty-five years into his acting career, which he began at age 15 in high school plays, Hawkes never feels like he knows how to play a role at the beginning.
That goes for acclaimed parts in Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Sessions, Winter's Bone or his latest, End of Sentence. He said he begins each film, show or play by asking questions and answering to the best of his ability, whether his co-stars join him in the process or not.
"It always has to do with really what is the story and how can I best serve the story in this moment as the character I'm playing," Hawkes said.
Hawkes began the interview with a thought about fathers and sons responding to Frank and Sean's relationship. However, Hawkes points out End of Sentence also deals with other universal relationships.
The story of Frank dealing with the loss of his wife and honoring her last wishes opens up the film to more human themes.
"I feel like it's a story about loss, in a way," Hawkes said. "I think we can all relate to that a bit, how we negotiate that."
Or, at least those who watch End of Sentence by themselves can feel like they are on the road with Frank and Sean, too.
"Hopefully, someone will feel less alone or feel a deeper emotion," Hawkes said.