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Come to Daddy | Review

Father of Mine: Timpson Paints Pastiche with Peculiar Debut

Ant Timpson Come to DaddyWhile he assembles all the requisite elements for what promises to be a throwback to the glory days of cerebral B-movie genre classics with his debut Come to Daddy, producer Ant Timpson’s first foray behind the camera unfortunately attempts to disguise a lethargic, superficial narrative behind the continuously popular “batshit crazy” artifice wherein jarring elements and obtuse segues are often mistaken for deeper meaning.

Based on an idea by Timpson and scripted by Toby Harvard (of The Greasy Strangler fame, a confident exercise in shock/schlock value), a game Elijah Wood stars as a pathetic thirtysomething with daddy issues who jumps on an opportunity to reunite with his estranged parent only to discover he’s inadvertently become part of something sinister. Surprises are few and far between as the film navigates predictable twists and despite a notable supporting cast, Timpson never settles on discernable tone, which makes his debut an odd duck, though one which outlasts its welcome with a tedious second act and a less than compelling finale.

Though daddy’s written the letter this time around, it’s a catalyst which doesn’t seem to make much sense, at least as the means for the necessity of Norval to wend his way to the hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest for a reunion which suggests he’s to be used as a pawn in his father’s nefarious plans. No dice on this front, as Come to Daddy is a series of convenient flourishes which feel like scenarios stapled together haphazardly. To be fair, there are some odd joys here, particularly Stephen McHattie as the nasty alcoholic Norval first believes to be his father (it’s actually one of McHattie’s most enjoyable performances since 2008’s Pontypool). Martin Donovan is also an interesting element, whose character gets to reveal the most interesting exposition about poor Norval, who’s lived a life of mysterious luxury in Beverly Hills.

Less successful is Ben Wheatley regular Michael Smiley (scribe Harvard was the storyboard artist on 2016’s Free Fire), styled like Vlad Dracula in a Coen characterization we’d expect from Peter Stormare. Wood, a wide-eyed creature whose feebleness eventually becomes monotonous, is allowed some memorably outlandish violent moments (like the Hoffman character in Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs), but Timpson’s other inspirations, which include some classic Pinter screenplays, get short shrift as the film plays more like low-fi Tarantino than it ever masters the art of Pinter’s ‘comedy of menace’ techniques. On the labored side of moribund, Come to Daddy feels like something we’ve seen before, considering its amalgamation of noir and genre tropes cobbled together.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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