Review: Come to Daddy — Movies for the Rest of Us with Bill Newcott

If you like your cinematic tea served with a dash of arsenic and a teaspoon of bile, this gleefully twisted tale of intergenerational angst might be the sip you’ve been waiting for.

Elijah Wood with a mustache in the film, Come to Daddy

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Come to Daddy

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Rating: R

Run time: 1 hour 33 minutes

Stars: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Martin Donovan, Michael Smiley

Writers: Toby Harvard, Ant Timpson

Director: Ant Timpson

 

Admittedly, the directorial debut of idiosyncratic New Zealand film producer Ant Timpson (The Greasy Strangler) will not be everybody’s cup of tea. But if you like your cinematic tea served with a dash of arsenic and a teaspoon of bile, this gleefully twisted tale of intergenerational angst might be the sip you’ve been waiting for.

From the start, Come to Daddy parachutes us into a world of ominous peril. We meet Norval (Elijah Wood), a 30-something man-child, as a bus drops him off in the middle of a dense forest. From there, following a hand-drawn map, he picks his way to a rustic but dramatic seaside house that seems a cross between The Cabin In The Woods and Dr. No’s volcano lair.

Tentatively, he knocks on the door. It swings open to reveal a gaunt, bearded, clearly agitated old man.

“Dad?” the young man blurts — and we’re off to the races. Needless to say, this is no Hallmark Channel reunion: There’s quite a bit of blood, gratuitous violence, and squirm-inducing gore in the offing.

To say much more about the plot would spoil the many wild 90-degree turns Come to Daddy negotiates, each more outlandish than the last — yet each surprisingly acceptable in Timpson’s narrative universe. Central to the film’s success is Wood as a man who is clearly damaged, yet who even as all Hell breaks loose remains determined to forge some sort of relationship with the man who abandoned him at age five (it’s no accident that more than one character comments on his wide, blue, innocent eyes).

Amidst all the mayhem, Come to Daddy never loses its off-kilter sense of humor. The characters, each stamped with their own defining quirk, speak in a sort of formalized prose that brings operatic gravity to their conversations, both mundane and threatening. Most importantly, the film remains at heart a father-son story; a blood-spattered meditation on the human bonds that can’t be snapped, no matter how hard we tug. 

Come to Daddy ends with a written tribute to director Timpson’s own father, a pithy text that goes some distance to explaining what we’ve just seen. By that point, even seasoned thriller fans will have given up trying to predict what will happen next and surrender to the film’s fever dream narrative. It’s the kind of thriller where, even as the most horrendous events unfold, you get the distinct feeling that everyone involved is having a wonderful time.

Featured image: Elijah Wood in Come to Daddy (Saban Films / Tango Entertainment)

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