Peppered with unadulterated insanity, Come to Daddy is a shifting, often shocking, and surprisingly hilarious thrill ride. Anchored by stellar performances from its main cast (and a “this house is its own character” setting), the film sweeps you through a madcap haze of manic proportions. It crashes over you, speeding along a winding and dangerous path, and you just can’t look away.
Come to Daddy is Ant Timpson’s feature film directorial debut, and he starts strong. Hailing from New Zealand, Timpson has acted as a producer on some seriously fun films — including Deathgasm, Housebound, and Turbo Kid — and brings that quirky Kiwi comedic charm to this dark, twisted tale of a father-son reunion.
Written by Toby Harvard and based on an idea by Timpson, the film follows Norval Greenwood, a privileged man-child, as he arrives at the beautiful and remote coastal cabin of his estranged father. He quickly discovers that not only is dad a jerk, but he also has a shady past that is rushing to catch up with both of them. Now, hundreds of miles from his cushy comfort zone, Norval must battle with demons, both real and perceived, in order to reconnect with a father he barely knows.
Stephen McHattie and Elijah Wood in “Come to Daddy” via Jamie Leigh Gianopoulos
The film begins by carefully exploring the strained relationship between Norval and his distant-would-be-an-understatement father, Brian, before a record-scratching chain of events tosses poor Norval into a blender of bad shit. We follow him through the chaos as he is thrown desperately out of his depth.
Played by an earnestly endearing Elijah Wood (Maniac, The Lord of the Rings), Norval is — at first — kind of a weenie. He’s the ultimate hipster millennial with his Beverly Hills upbringing, limited edition gold-plated iPhone, “music career”, and lofty stories of his up-close-and-very-personal brushes with fame. He’s sweet and insecure, but you can’t help but cock an eyebrow at every humble brag.
Once the shit hits the proverbial fan, Norval is forced to step up in the biggest way possible, and it’s incredibly easy to empathize with his plight. Wood perfectly captures that wide-eyed innocence that makes Norval such a sympathetic character.
His paternal counterpart, Steven McHattie (Pontypool, 300), slings vicious barbs through gritted teeth. They’re perfectly imbalanced, making their reunion that much more stilted. Meanwhile, Michael Smiley (Kill List) slides in with a fantastically grimy performance that steals each scene with a greasy underhand.
While Come to Daddy certainly goes… a lot of different directions, it is firmly focused on the strained relationship between an estranged father and a desperate son. Norval is searching for any kind of connection he could possibly form with his father after a lifetime of confused loss.
Elijah Wood in “Come to Daddy” via Daniel Katz
But as weighty as that particular plot point is, Come to Daddy doesn’t fully succumb to its own pressure. There’s a pitch-black humor injected throughout, breaking the tension with violent absurdity.
Timpson doesn’t hold back on these hits; they pulse with a savagery so startling that you can’t help but laugh. It’s all grounded by a simple, linear narrative that guides the ever-shifting tone of the film. The score — composed by New Zealand artist Karl Steven — ties it all together. Following its brutally absurd build-up, Come to Daddy wafts its full emotional weight through the film’s final moments, and it’s a brilliantly dramatic note to end on.
After that whole wild ride, we’re reminded of the film’s thesis. The relationship between father and son, and if — once broken — that bond can ever be repaired. What lengths would you go to for your family? How does it change you? Swathed in a surprisingly dark comedic cloak, there’s a genuine and deeply human heart to the film that resonates with emotional honesty.
Come to Daddy pulls you in with its eccentricity, sneaking in a one-two punch that throws you for a loop before blasting you into shocking new territory. It’s a surefire crowd pleaser — pure midnight pulpy madness — and it’s certainly a memorable experience. You just have to accept the invite.
Click here for the trailer, or watch below.
In Select Theaters Nationwide + Available on Digital & VOD on February 7, 2020