‘Come To Daddy’ If You Dare: A Review Of Ant Timpson’s Feature Film Debut

by Rachel Bellwoar

Come to Daddy opens with two quotes: “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children” (attributed to William Shakespeare) and “There is no one else like my daddy” (Beyoncé). Next to Shakespeare, Beyoncé’s lyric sounds flattering (and she sings her father’s praises in the song), but on its own “no one else” doesn’t necessarily have to be a compliment; much like the way “come to daddy” can be a warm invitation or a cold command.

Which was it for Norval (Elijah Wood), the star of director Ant Timpson’s Come to Daddy? You can’t choose who your father is, but you can choose how to respond to their call, and when Norval’s dad (Stephen McHattie) writes him a letter asking if they can re-connect, Norval gets on a bus to see him. Towards the end of the film you get to hear what the letter said, and at that point you’re pretty invested. Norval’s father abandoned him and his mom when he was five. It’s been thirty years since they’ve last met, and despite Norval’s dad being the one to arrange this reunion, you’d think Norval imposed himself on his doorstep.
The question then becomes why does Norval put up with him? Why doesn’t he leave the moment it becomes clear his dad doesn’t want to bond, but actually means him ill? It might be just as well to ask why did Norval come? The whole trip is a huge disappointment. Everything that could go wrong does, but what if Norval made a mistake? What if he misread the situation? What happens when Toby Harvard’s script offers a glimmer of hope?
That hope comes attached to trouble, of course – trouble the likes of which Norval has never experienced – and in no time at all, Norval’s do-over becomes as twisted as his first attempt at making contact, just in a different way. Is Timpson making a larger statement about the relationship between fathers and their children? If he is, it’s pretty grim, but while Timpson flirts with the supernatural (Norval describes his father’s house as looking like a UFO from the 60’s and the film involves the best use of a hatch since Lost), the real world is crazy enough to account for most of what happens.
That’s what’s impressive about Come to Daddy. There are some bonkers moments and talking about this film without saying too much is tricky, because there are developments that happen early on that change the course of the film (spoilers). Amidst the bonkers moments, though, Timpson and Harvard never lose sight of what’s going on between Norval and his dad. Is Norval’s dad deliberately preying on his son’s sense of familial duty or would he have to know his son better to do that? What about Norval’s mother? Norval talks to her on the phone a few times (viewers aren’t privy to her side of the conversation) and she says at one point she’s coming on Friday but, without knowing what day of the week it is, Friday could be tomorrow or next week. Then there’s Norval, who tells his dad he works in the music business but then gets caught in a lie shortly afterwards.
Nobody is safe, not even Norval, and coming to Daddy might be the worst decision he’s ever made. It shouldn’t be, though, and Come to Daddy (the movie) doesn’t forget that.
Come to Daddy is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Lionsgate.

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