Watch This offers movie recommendations inspired by new releases, premieres, current events, or occasionally just our own inscrutable whims. This week: We’re highlighting some of the best movies of 2020 so far that we didn’t review.
Maybe it’s unfair to compare the relatively modest B-movie Come To Daddy with last year’s critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning, international smash hit Parasite. But the two films do have some commonalities. Both are genre-defying, mixing moody noir with elements of social satire and over-the-top pulp. Both are about people whose comfortable lives are the result of someone else’s toil. And both feature wicked mid-picture plot twists that are hard to talk about without spoiling the story.
Maybe it’s that big, unmentionable switcheroo that has kept Come To Daddy under the cinephile radar, ever since it was released in the U.S. in early February (well before the pandemic shut the entertainment business down). The film was reasonably well-reviewed, but it didn’t generate a lot of buzz on social media back then or now, even though it’s exactly the kind of blackly comic, sicko crime picture that a certain subset of movie buff loves—a genre sleeper in the same general category as Red Rock West or Blood Simple. And while it’s not as capital-G great as those two cult classics, it is awfully good.
Come to Come To Daddy first and foremost for Elijah Wood, who’s exactly the right level of “nebbishy” as the film’s protagonist, Norval Greenwood, a California rich kid with esoteric interests. The story is initially about Norval reuniting with the father who skipped out on him and his mom when he was just a pre-schooler. Once Norval arrives at the remote Oregon cabin where his old man lives, the movie becomes more about how ill-prepared this coddled Beverly Hills hipster is for the rough, violent dudes in his pop’s social circle. Who better than Frodo himself to play such a well-meaning, wide-eyed naif?
Because of the aforementioned twist—which involves Norval finding out something surprising about what his dad’s been doing for the past 30 years, and how it’s been benefiting our hero from a distance—Come To Daddy is really two movies. Director Ant Timpson and screenwriter Toby Harvard (who previously worked together, with Wood, on the gleefully gross art-comedy The Greasy Strangler) treat the first half of the film as a claustrophobic character study, about two very different men spending a few increasingly tense days together in the middle of nowhere. In the second half, the pace quickens considerably, as more characters enter the fray… and it becomes a bloody, bloody fray.
It’s possible that audiences who enjoy one of Come To Daddy’s halves may dislike the other. Yet even at its most shocking—and, be warned, its most viscerally disgusting—the movie always speaks to life in this particular moment, when questions about social inequality and class division are being discussed more openly. To be clear, this isn’t an overtly political film. It’s more of a bone-dry comedy that shifts gears suddenly and becomes a cheap-thrill generator. But Timpson, Harvard, and Wood do have a strong sense of the connection between their pieces, from the amoral psychopaths who make money out of mayhem to their soft offspring who live all-too-easily thanks to what the bad guys do.