Director: Ant Timpson
Writer: Toby Harvard
Cast: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Michael Smiley, Martin Donovan
Cert: 18 (TBC)
Running time: 93mins
What’s the story: Norval (Wood) returns home to reunite with his estranged father. But, he soon discovers the old man (McHattie) is less than pleased to see him.
What’s the verdict: Since making his Lord of the Rings millions, Elijah Wood has explored interesting characters in some particularly off-the-wall movies. Come to Daddy is as left-of-centre as the weirdest of his previous films, from Open Windows to that Maniac remake.
He plays Norval Greenwood, a thirtysomething recovering alcoholic with hair courtesy of Gareth from The Office and a moustache nicked from John Waters. Norval journeys to a remote beachfront house in response to his father’s letter, a man from whom he was estranged as a young boy.
Hopes for a reconciliation are dashed when Stephen McHattie’s old man welcomes Norval with barbed remarks then outright ridicule and aggression. After which, things become particularly weird…
Best to keep ignorant about producer-turned-director Ant Timpson’s debut feature before going in. Like the Coen Brothers in an especially odd mood, Timpson tosses around plot grenades that on several occasions significantly re-arrange ideas of what is going on.
Sometimes events seem supernatural. Other times they are ultra- violent. One time they involve a story about Elton John. At the centre is Norval, Wood’s large, hurt eyes growing ever wider trying to make sense of it all.
As a director, Timpson imaginatively shoots his largely single location to keep audiences as nervy as his lead character. Extensive mirror usage hints at another side to all this, while ominous clanging and Karl Steven’s acoustic score do the same on the soundtrack.
Wood, McHattie (always good value when his blood is up), plus cult favourites Michael Smiley and Martin Donovan deliver performances that do their best to keep all this anchored.
But, Toby Harvard’s script (from Timpson’s original idea) packs in so many tonal shifts, Come to Daddy occasionally frustrates as much as it entertains. Without spoiling the surprises, the lingering impression is everyone involved had two or three film ideas and attempted to blend them together when funding landed.
Yet, pleasures are here to be had. One discussion around protein provides the film’s ickiest laugh, while a reference to a prominent British politician validates the entire enterprise. Timpson has a keen eye for shooting laugh-and-gasp violence and gore that, if nothing else, makes Come to Daddy memorable.
Not a case of world’s greatest dad, but enough to make you check out Timpson’s next directorial outing.