Come to Daddy, directed by Ant Timpson, has a plot that could have been assembled through a game of Mad Libs. It is a delightful jumble of comedy, horror, thriller, and mystery that never takes the easy route in any of those genres. The film is constantly taking unexpected directions, with each plot point playing like a dare — to create the most unpredictable event next. Even with all the odd detours along the way, Come to Daddy somehow never becomes erratic, or random for the sake of being random. Timpson has created an altogether original and compelling film that defies all genres, while also pushing the conventions further than before.
Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood), a musician from California, travels by bus to a remote part of Oregon. He recently received a letter from his father, who wants to reconnect after leaving him and his mother when he was very young. When Norval finally gets to the remote seaside home, he is greeted by David (Martin Donovan), who seems initially happy to have his son back in his life. As they start to connect, Norval begins to sense something isn’t right: David keeps poking and prodding at him and his sense of self-worth. There is a sinister edge to his father that Norval can’t quite understand, and as he starts to get to know David more, he descends into a world completely different than his privileged Beverly Hills upbringing.
Director Ant Timpson and writer Toby Harvard have created what can only be described as a fusion of David Lynch’s portrayals of the criminal underworld, Swiss Army Man’s young adult alienation and humor, and the brutality of Jeremy Saulnier, minus the nihilism. Come to Daddy never takes the easiest route from plot point to plot point. There are hints and suggestions for where the story will go next, but they are completely pushed aside in favor of character-building or Norval’s deeper plunge into this surreal world. It isn’t often that a movie begins and ends in very disparate circumstances, yet with Come to Daddy, nothing feels like an unnatural progression. Some may be unhappy that the film’s genre isn’t easy to pin down. It is too violent and gory to be a dark comedy, too funny to be a drama exploring how Norval has learned to handle growing up without his father, but also too contemplative to be a thriller. Lastly, it isn’t scary enough to be a horror film. Come to Daddy is the sort of film that is best enjoyed when as little as possible is known. Even reading the plot, which I tried to truncate as much as possible, or seeing the poster is too much. Timpson and Harvard have conceived something extraordinary that must be seen to be believed.
Come to Daddy is yet another example of Elijah Wood continuing to choose perfectly quirky roles that fully show that he is having a blast with off-kilter material. It is difficult to think of any other actor who has somewhat abandoned his celebrity in the traditional sense, but also utilized it to ensure smaller budget films get produced and distributed. Wood plays Norval as someone who is needy but never annoying. Although it is heavily hinted that he has grown up in the lap of luxury, there really isn’t much in his personality that feels like the satirized privilege that we’ve seen in films like Spring Breakers or The Bling Ring. Wood doesn’t play Norval as a young man who is simply in over his head, but as a person who is learning to cope with doing whatever it takes to survive. Fans of off-kilter films should be on the look-out for anything Wood stars in or produces — he is quickly becoming one of the most dependable contributors to B-movie cinema.
Come to Daddy won’t be for everyone. It defies explanation, but also lays bare its influences. Ant Timpson has made a delicious pastiche of genres that is not only unpredictable, but also funny and occasionally heartfelt. It puts Timpson on the short-list of B-movie directors to keep an eye on. The right audience will find Come to Daddy, and before long, anything else Timpson does in the future.