Tribeca: Come to Daddy (2019)

This is not your Hallmark Channel family reconciliation movie. It’s about mean drunks and their emotionally stunted sons—and a whole bunch of dastardly skullduggery. It would be telling to identify what kind precisely, but eventually plodding Norval Greenwood will start to understand the whole picture. In the meantime, he will try to get to know the father who was never part of his life in Ant Timpson’s Come to Daddy, which premiered last week during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

When Greenwood received a letter from his father inviting him to visit his remote but eccentric looking seaside home, so they could maybe belatedly explore a father-son relationship, he eagerly came running. Unfortunately, his father’s reception is strangely chilly. Presumably, he wrote Greenwood in a drunken fugue state, because he no longer remembers the letter. Instead, he goes out of his way to belittle and intimidate Greenwood, turning his visit into a filial cold war. And then the first game-changing twist upends everything, so keep watching.

*image courtesy of Come to Daddy (2019)

There is plenty of the stuff that interests CE readers happening throughout Daddy, but to explain how so would be spoilery. Let’s just say it really is a thriller (despite some head fakes towards horror) and leave it at that. Regardless, it has a terrific genre cast, starting with Elijah Wood at his most nebbish as poor Greenwood. In terms of intensity and its place on the genre spectrum, Daddy is probably most like Grand Piano among Wood’s non-Tolkien films, but it definitely is its own anti-social animal.

Regardless, Wood hits the right awkward and anxious notes while playing off the great Stephen McHattie, who chews the scenery with relish as the not-so welcoming old man. Although it features a small ensemble, Daddy boasts some highly distinctive character actors, including Michael Smiley (a regular in Ben Wheatley’s films), who clearly enjoys the sinister flamboyance of a villainous character who emerges after the first act. Martin Donovan also does some of the best work we can remember as the beleaguered mystery guest.

…the tension, uncertainty, and foreboding [are] all cranked up high…

So, yes, this is absolutely a “feel-good movie.” Timpson keeps the tension, uncertainty, and foreboding all cranked up high, mostly redeeming himself for producing the repellent Greasy Strangler. Obviously, Daddy has its secrets that Tribeca press has been asked to respect, but it never feels like a gimmicky “big twist” Shyamalan-esque movie. In fact, all its elements work together in concert rather well. Highly recommended for fans of slightly lurid dark thrillers, Come to Daddy screens again this Friday (5/3), as a midnight selection of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

*lead image courtesy of Come to Daddy (2019)


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    Despite the stylistic leaps and strong genre basis, the film does not break up into a series of vivid episodes: it is a touching, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant story about an eternal boy who wanted to bring his family back.

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