Come to Daddy is staged in a wicked universe, twisting and turning like a Coen Brothers film. The movie opens with an epigraph from Shakespeare about fathers: “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” As usual with movie epigraphs, it’s a sober quote of a high-brow variety. Then the screen pops in a Beyoncé quote: “There is no one like my Daddy.” I chuckled. I knew the viewing experience was going to be equal parts nasty and goofy.
Our hero’s name is Norval, played with a glazed expression by Elijah Wood. The way Wood delivers the name, you would think he is introducing himself as “Normal.” Oh, but he is far from normal. Hoping for answers about his father’s abandonment, Norval drags his luggage to his father’s middle-of-nowhere sea house. His estranged father, who abandoned him and his mother when he was five, has written for him to visit him. But when Norval greets the man in his father’s house, the young man reads more contempt than affection radiating from this old gruff man.
Norval’s attempted bonding session with this geezer proves cringeworthy. Their dialogue exposits that Norval’s fatherless life is both rugged and apparently privileged. He lives with his mother and he’s a recovering alcoholic who survived a suicide attempt, though it is suggested he lives close to Hollywood glamor as a Los Angeles DJ, enough that he fabricates a story about knowing Elton John to impress his estranged father, a scene that starts innocuous before paying off with awkward hilarity.
After an argument, something major happens. Something I won’t spoil here. Around the midpoint, the film shifts into psychological horror. A noise in the house vexes Norval and eats away at his sanity. Director Ant Timpson keeps you on your toes guessing about the noise. Is the noise literal? Is the noise simply a storm inside Norval’s head? Is there a hidden living presence in the house with Norval? Is something supernatural about to overtake the plot? The answer leads to a discovery that overloads the protagonist’s brain so much that you can’t help but laugh at predicament piling on predicament.
All I can say further is that Wood is pitch-perfect for this role and this haywire universe seems designed for his seemingly benign facial expressions. Wood has the natural countenance of glassy innocence while conveying such a feeble vacancy that he is deferential to any command that a guy can tell him to harm or even murder on cue, even if his attack abilities are inexperienced. Each transgression he commits becomes another demented rite of passage for this poor player.
Come to Daddy is a frenzied thriller pouring out Tarantino quarts of gore and laughs. Lurking beneath its surface, there’s also an unspoken philosophical contemplation on what it means to be a father. Through all the irreverence, there is a level of closure for the perplexed son. A lot bleeds in this film. But the last and most important thing that really bleeds in the end is the emotions between father and son.
/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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