Come To Daddy (2019)
Written by Toby Harvard
Directed by Ant Timpson
If you have seen the trailers for Come to Daddy, you have been tricked, in an excellent way. By the end of the first act, the film throws a twist at the audience that causes all your expectations to go out the window. I was left entirely out to sea, wondering where this story was going when such a vital element of the story changed so drastically. Come to Daddy isn’t some revelation of a dark comedy, but it is a very entertaining and bizarre narrative. The characters are absurd, funny, and horrific. I found myself laughing quite a bit at a film I didn’t expect would amaze me too much.
Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) has received a letter from his estranged father, Brian (Stephen McHattie), imploring him to visit his old man at his secluded Oregon cabin. When the man arrives, he finds a quaint octagonal house sitting right on the beach and a bipolar drunk father. At first, things are okay with the tension simmering in the background. Brian becomes more belligerent and starts to peel away the layers of phoniness Norval surrounds himself with. Things get aggressive with a threat of violence looming, and then something unexpected happens. By the end of the film, Norval is splattered in blood, some of it his and some other people’s, forever changed by this experience.
I would recommend going into Come to Daddy with as little knowledge as possible because it is an enjoyably surprising and gory dark comedy. With the number of switchbacks in the plot, you would expect that the torrent of twists would be exhausting, but they are handled and revealed at just the right moments so that they land beautifully. The director puts us in a strange state of mind, not sure what will happen next from the first scene. Norval disembarks off a chartered bus on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere and begins trekking through the woods. His father has hand-drawn a map on the back of his letter to guide Norval to him.
There is a wonderfully tense scene between Norval and Brian early in the film as they sit beside each other before the fireplace. Norval begins explaining his esoteric career (a DJ and club promoter, all hinting at not having consistent work) and starts to brag that he was discovered by Elton John; he calls him Reginald, his real name. Brian reveals that he was Reginald’s limo driver for a decade and knows the man very well. He says they should call him to point out what a fantastic coincidence this is. Norval begins to sweat, and we start to realize that the truth is going to be elusive throughout this story.
Brian is a threatening presence, the film always hinting he’s seconds away from killing his son. Norval shows off his limited edition gold iPhone designed by Lorde, and his father “accidentally” tosses it into the drink, leaving Norval without a form of communication to the outside world. Later, he goes for a swim and finds a massive rock chucked out from the beach, narrowly missing his head. Brian stands on the shore, drinking, acting as if he has no idea what just happened. Nothing feels right about this reunion, and it is that second act twist that suddenly cascades and changes everything.
I think Come to Daddy could have benefited from a few more drafts of the script. The motor sputters in the third act as things get absolutely crazy. I wish there could have been a little more grounding because there’s a genuinely heartbreaking story. The final scene of the picture reveals some pathos, and I wish that had been a little more present throughout. I suspect you will be very entertained while watching Come to Daddy, though. It continues Elijah Wood’s streak of picking fantastically strange and shocking roles that I hope he continues.