Tribeca 2019 – Review: COME TO DADDY Teeters Between Reality And A Fever Dream

FIRST IMPRESSION

This debut feature film is genre filmmaking at its finest, and once it goes off the rails, it never stops for a second until it reaches its surprisingly poignant finale.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Come To Daddy takes many forms in its short runtime, yet none of the characteristics it contains drag it down. Even though it goes off the rails at times, it feels wholly in tune with the film as a whole. And for a film that includes kidnapping, swingers, and a torture method involving a pen covered in human feces, that’s truly a feat to behold. Ant Timpson’s debut is many things, yet convoluted is not one of them. In fact, it’s a rather simplistic tale about new possibilities and familial connection told through a basic premise that goes haywire for the benefit of entertainment.

Norval, played by an eccentric Elijah Wood, receives a letter from his father who abandoned him 30 years prior. He decides to visit him in his house seemingly in the middle of nowhere, only following the directions from the map his father drew up. From there, one may think they have a grasp on how the rest of the film will play out. It could have very easily fallen into a path of mediocrity, but instead, rose far above it. Come To Daddy hits a turning point around midway through the film, and never even thinks to stop and look back. It’s unapologetically raw and truly feels like Timpson has crafted a wholly unique film. After all, this may be the first film in history to juxtapose a Shakespeare quote with a Beyoncé lyric; and that’s just the first joke the viewer is treated to.

Elijah Wood as Norval in Ant Timpson’s COME TO DADDY.

And what’s so brilliant about Come To Daddy is that its strengths lie in its juxtapositions. Make no mistake, this film is downright brutal, and there’s plenty of blood being spilled. Yet more often than not, it’s extremely comical in its delivery. But at its core, most of the comedy in this film comes from a place that is deeply tragic. Norval is stranded in the home of his father, which has a private beach and is secluded from the world. In another film, it would be therapeutic and beneficial for both father and son; but this is far from a typical film about bonding. Oddly enough, there are moments that are extremely heartfelt and resonate well. But when Norval’s father, played by an erratic Stephen McHattie, opens the door, it does not seem like all will go well.

McHattie is simply fantastic in this, and hopefully this sets him up on a course of horror films where he can fully lose his mind. Deranged and unhinged, the audience never knows his next move and it actually becomes pretty nerve-wracking. A setting this beautiful shouldn’t be this scary, yet it somehow works not only in darkness, but in clear day as well. Come To Daddy is effective not only on a literal level, but on a thematic one as well. Similar to Norval reading “The Celestine Prophecy”, he too is hoping this new possibility at a relationship with his father will clear his mind. Given the chance at a new path, the film can be taken many different ways and is cleverer than its short description leads viewers to believe.

Elijah Wood as Norval and Stephen McHattie in Ant Timpson’s COME TO DADDY.

For this film hides a few metaphysical elements within its short runtime. The Shakespeare quote used from “The Merchant of Venice” is one that rings true repeatedly. “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children” may be riddling at first, but the finale lays everything out before the viewer. Confrontation of one’s self is crucial to a better understanding of character, and when confronting a father figure as well, the impact is simply tenfold. The curtain is pulled back time and time again in Come To Daddy, and it never becomes too much to bear. The world Timpson has crafted feels as if it’s teetering on the edge of reality and a fever dream. And to be honest, a film as wild as this could not function in any other setting.

There are moments in Come To Daddy that will have you laughing out loud. Other scenes will have you wincing and picking your jaw off the floor. Timpson’s debut is confident filmmaking at its finest, and pulls off everything that it attempts. Paired to a score that feels like a pulse and some tight camerawork, this can only mean great things for Timpson’s career. For Come To Daddy is in a lane of its own, while never feeling too much out of the comfort zone of audiences. It’s always a pleasure to see a film that screams “cult following” before it gains one, and this film turns on the megaphone to rally its newfound fans from the very beginning.

Come To Daddy celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, and is part of the Midnight section.

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Alex Papaioannou
Alex Papaioannou
Born and raised in New York. I've always loved all things pop culture, but my true passion lies within film. And the only thing that I love more than watching movies is writing about them! Some close runner-ups are: food, the Yankees, and hip-hop.

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