As witnessed in Grand Piano and I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore, Elijah Wood is a fan of deceptively layered and baroque narratives. Come To Daddy fits into that storytelling aesthetic, and thanks to bravura filmmaking from Ant Timpson, it’s a story that’s refreshingly hard to shake.
Norval Greenwood is a prim and proper thirtysomething who’s a bit sheltered for his own good. In Come to Daddy’s opening moments, he’s dropped off a remote road that leads him through a tree lined forest and ultimately into a desolate, coastal stretch of Oregon. His estranged father (Stephen McHattie) hasn’t seen his kid for years and decides to write him a letter in hopes for a meet up. Our protagonist complies, as he also holds hope for a fruitful reunion.
But dear old dad is actually a jerk, as ignoring or belittling Norval is the order of the day. One conversation, in which Norval tries to impress his father by divulging he knows Elton John, leads to a humiliating outcome within moments.
The first act explores the unpredictable relationship between the family members, and when one expects that this thriller is a simple two hander, director Ant Timpson (and writer Toby Harvard) veer off into a completely unexpected direction. After that abrupt shift, you may think you’ve actually settled down into a more manageable (and predictable) thriller. Lo and Behold, Come To Daddy has another trick up its sleeve.
To give any more plot details away leads to spoiler territory, but it’s safe enough to say that Martin Donovan, Madeleine Sami, and Michael Smiley also have prominent roles. The third act, as we witness Norval’s survival instincts kicking in, displays Timpson’s deft balance of steady pacing and ramping up the tension. Though it is Timpson’s directing debut (he’s a longtime producer), Come To Daddy is a self assured work that, even amidst some of the film’s bloodier and off kilter moments, is original to the core.
Elijah Wood brings a ton of depth and ultimately humanity into the role of an adult who needs a bit of growing up to do. As a horror thriller, there are scenes that may leave you a bit squeamish, but most of your unease may come from watching Norval’s painful struggle in trying to find common ground with his dad. Norval’s desperation, loneliness, and ultimate perseverance is perfectly captured by Wood’s nuanced work (even with that eye catching haircut, it’s still a subtle performance).
The closing moment, as we wait for a question to finally be answered, is a thing of beauty. A father and son bond, in this life or the next, is everlasting. And for that, there are no words.
Come To Daddy hits theaters and On Demand February 7.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5