VOD film review: Come to Daddy
Anton Bitel | On 21, Feb 2020
Director: Ant Timpson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Martin Donovan, Michael Smiley
The word “UFO” appears twice in Come To Daddy. When 35-year-old Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) visits the father who walked out on him when he was five, and claps eyes on the remote cliffside home – all rough timbers and rounded angles with a panoramic view of the sea – where his estranged dad lives, he comments to the man (Stephen McHattie) who greets him at the door that the place looks like “a UFO from the 1960s”. And, in the film’s third act, when our mama’s boy ends up in a motel that could be right out of Psycho, the word can be seen in the magazine that the concierge is reading.
The directorial debut of genre pruducer Ant Timpson (The ABCs of Death, Turbo Kid, The Greasy Strangler), Come To Daddy is itself something of a UFO – an oddity that comes out of nowhere, and switches rapidly in one direction and then another, so that by the end you cannot quite retrace where you have been taken. Norval himself – a somewhat effeminate, urbanised man-child from Beverly Hills – seems entirely alien in his father’s milieu, as Daddy reveals a contrasting, Hemingway-esque model of masculinity, all drunken swaggering menace and seething aggression. He tells Norval that what impresses him are “fighting stories” – even as, ever so slowly, Norval is himself being drawn into one. There are female characters here – an over-sharing coroner (Madeleine Sami) and a domineering prostitute (Ona Grauer) – but for the most part this is a darkly comic tale of simple men. Indeed, Martin Donovan, star of Hal Hartley’s Simple Men, will show up, as will Michael Smiley, best known for appearing in another bad dad saga, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List.
“Trust me, you’ve got no fucking idea what’s happening here,” Norval is informed – and the viewer will no doubt feel the same. Norval is on a quest for his father as a way of reclaiming his own identity, but is about to find out more than he ever bargained for about his legacy. For once Norval has answered his father’s call and reentered his life, the son is headed down a twisting, transformative path, and there can be no turning back. The two text quotes with which the film opens – Shakespeare’s “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children” and Beyoncé’s “There is no one else like my daddy” – lay out the film’s principal themes: the sometimes baleful bequest, and the singularity, of the father. Just how those themes play out, though, is full of funny (haha and strange) surprises, enabling Norval to assume an inheritance that it might have been better to leave behind.