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Tribeca 2019: "Come to Daddy"

Team Experience reporting from the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Jason Adams

Come to Daddy opens like a big-screen reboot of Schitt's Creek, with Elijah Wood working his best elaborate David Rose ensemble of flappy black fabrics without discernible seams. He's yanking a wheelie suitcase through a no place field. Slowly, the cinema happens -- the field gives way to the trees, a forest, a gorgeous coastline, all while Elijah's Moe-hairdo and black nail polish paint him as a rank outsider in this place of nature and wonder.

Soon enough we see that he's doing what all us fancy city boys must do at one point or another -- he's going home. Except not entirely...

Norval (Wood) is visiting his father, who he hasn't seen in years and who lives in a strange 60s spaceship of a house perched over the water. They are not, it's quick to tell, a match. The father is played by Stephen McHattie, gristle taken human shape, so it's notsomuch Norval's fault; that bundle of sticks gives off no warmth.

The first spectacular act of Kiwi filmmaker Ant Timpson's directorial debut, Come to Daddy, sees these two couldn't-be-more-different dudes antagonize each other in an enclosed and remote space. The movie thrums with tension, even as not a whole lotta much happens. It's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf sliced in half -- a nasty alcoholic creeper and a recovering phony naif taunting each other across the dinner table. It's 'My Dinner With Asshole,' and McHattie and Wood twist the meat of every moment between their teeth, busting skin and bone with it.

Things don't stay so meaty, at least on a metaphorical level -- as the meat gets bloodier the good stuff starts to spray in every direction, the floor drops out, and the movie in its second, third, fourth, fifth acts loses some focus in order to make a real nutter. (You can feel a little of The Greasy Strangler, the 2016 cult oddity which was also written by Toby Harvard, in it.) And what it gains in nuts it spills in tension -- there are good laughs and great shocks as the story steamrolls, but it doesn't entirely live up to the sharp-tongued promise of its first half. 

Structurally you can see it stretching towards a film like Pascal Laugier's horror masterpiece Martyrs (there's a pretty explicit shout-out to that film), which was the movie you thought it was going to be for a full five minutes at a time until it would wrench itself violently one way or the other, knocking about your own brains in the process -- that's certainly a noble aim, and Come to Daddy has its pleasures. But there are only so many limbs you can slice off yourself before you're just a pile of beef.

Come to Daddy plays 4/26, 4/27, and 5/3 at the festival

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Reader Comments (2)

Elijah Wood with a mustache is a SOLID look.

April 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

The title alone scares me because of the allusion to Aphex Twin, and Window Licker. But I am keeping an eye out,nonetheless!

May 5, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterIshmael

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