‘Daddio’ Review: An Empathic and Emotionally Unexpected Journey

Kevin Taft reviews the well-acted drama Daddio, from writer/director Christy Hall, one of the best films of the year.
User Rating: 9.5

One of 2017’s Top Unproduced Screenplays, Daddio is one of the more fascinating and complex two-character dramas to come out of Hollywood in a long time.

Director and writer Christy Hall—who created the acclaimed Netflix series “I Am Not Okay With This”—has crafted a slice-of-life drama that will incite rabid conversations about a myriad of topics. From misogyny to male vs. female relationship dynamics to the cause and effect of how we were raised, Daddio might seem like a meandering cornucopia of hot-button topics. But this doesn’t do it justice.

The simple set-up for the film involves a woman (Dakota Johnson) exiting JFK airport to take a taxi back to her apartment in mid-town Manhattan. Her cab driver, Clark (Sean Penn), is a rough-and-tumble New Yorker who engages the woman in conversation shortly after their journey begins.

See Also: ‘Hit Man’ Review: Point Blank Fake

At first, you might think spending an hour and forty minutes in a taxi with two strangers might be tiresome, but Hall’s ability to create natural, fascinating conversations keeps us glued to the screen.

What’s immediately pleasant about Hall’s script is that it challenges the stereotypes you’d expect, both from the characters and the situation. At first, the woman is very quiet and seems like she wouldn’t want to be engaged with. Conversely, Clark has a gruff, charming nature that some might expect to be dangerous.

And throughout, you do wonder if there will be more to the story other than two people revealing intimate details about themselves. Being older and looking like he might have been a former boxer, Clark could very well become predatory. And there are moments when you truly think the script will go down this path. But that’s too cliché. It’s too expected. Hall is too talented to tell a story that’s been told many times before.

In-kind, the woman might have a “don’t talk to me” air about her, but when Clark tentatively begins to interact with her, she is surprisingly open to it. She is open to most of his questions but also turns them back on him. When he talks of things she thinks are a bit offensive or misogynistic, she expresses her displeasure but also listens to his explanations. She is open to the brutal honestly, and that was not expected.

At every turn, Hall defies our expectations, whether with the stories the two tell each other, the topics that arise, or the genial nature of this singular, short-term relationship.

Johnson is nothing short of luminous here. So often, she is seen as pensive, the cars and city lights reflecting on her face as she ponders current circumstances that she is rattled by. Her engagement with Clark is calm and curious, although she doesn’t repress her reactions regarding subjects they disagree on or are surprised by.

Similarly, Penn walks a tightrope of being empathic and genuinely engaging while allowing the more disagreeable pieces of himself to bleed through. He’s charming and kind, but there’s a faint danger to him that keeps the audience alert.

Credit must be given to the stunning cinematography by Phedon Papamichael, the inciteful editing by Lisa Zeno Churgin, and the simple but sumptuous score by Dickon Hinchliffe. These elements add so much beauty and depth to Hall’s film and the performances of our leads that it’s hard to ignore their contributions.

Daddio is a surprisingly beautiful story about two very different humans who connect in a remarkable way. They may not always see eye-to-eye, and they might have opposing perspectives on a number of topics, but they listen to each other. They see each other as something more than black-and-white souls existing in pre-determined boxes. They surprise each other, find common ground, and understand that meaningful and maybe even profound connections can occur between people in the most unlikely of places.

It’s one of the very best of the year.

Daddio opens in theaters on June 28, 2024.

9.5
Amazing
Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

Your Vote

0 0

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.