Come To Daddy (2019)

Come To Daddy first published by

The word ‘UFO’ appears twice in Come To Daddy. When, in response to an unexpected letter, 35-year-old Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood, Maniac, 2012) comes visiting 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 beyond – where his father, now a stranger to him, lives, he comments to the man (Stephen McHattie, Pontypool, 2008) who greets him at the door that the place looks like “a UFO from the 1960s”. And in the film’s third act, as our mama’s boy ends up in a motel that could be right out of Psycho (1960), the word can be seen in the titty magazine that the concierge is reading. 

The directorial debut of genre pruducer Ant Timpson (The ABCs of Death, Turbo Kid, The Greasy Strangler, The Field Guide To Evil), 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 manchild 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 oversharing 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 (1992), will show up, as will Michael Smiley, best known for appearing in another bad dad saga, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (2011). 

“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 twisty, 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” – between them 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 which perhaps he might have better left behind him long ago. 

Summary: Genre producer extraordinaire Ant Timpson proves he can also direct in this extreme and darkly funny tale of fathers and sons.

© Anton Bitel