Daddio was a film that got its hooks into me and won’t let go. It’s a simple yet perceptive depiction of two people learning a bit more about themselves. Photo courtesy of TeaTime Pictures and Raindrop Valley

Film Review: Daddio


Director: Christy Hall
TeaTime Pictures and Raindrop Valley
In Theaters: 06.28

It seems that far too often, meaningful connections allude us, even in our close relationships. And then there are those rare occasions when you find yourself talking to a stranger, and for a fleeting moment, something magical happens. Daddio is a charming film about those unique moments.

One night in New York City, a yellow cab picks up a passenger from JFK International Airport.  The young female passenger (Dakota Johnson, Madame Web, Fifty Shades of Grey) whose name we never learn—the credits identify her only as “Girlie”—is preoccupied with texting, but the driver, Clark (Sean Penn, Mystic River, Milk) is a talker who quickly brings her out of her shell. As they make the slow journey to her Manhattan apartment in heavy traffic, the conversation runs a gamut of topics that include relationships, male/female power dynamics, family, hopes, dreams and regrets. Girlie reveals that she is in a relationship with an older, influential and well-known married man, and he keeps trying to sext with her during the ride. 

Clark shares stories of his many loves, and offers a variety of opinions about her love life, most of them unsolicited, though not entirely unappreciated. As the ride wears on, the barriers between these strangers start to come down, and a combination of vulnerability, honesty and empathy forges an indefinable emotional and spiritual link that catches both by surprise.

Writer-director Christy Hall (I Am Not Okay With This) originally conceived Daddio as a play, and in theory, the two person, dialogue-based drama seems to lend itself more to the stage. Hall manages to bring a cinematic quality to the proceedings that elevates the material and puts the audience inside the cab. The bulk of the film was shot on a soundstage utilizing giant LED screens, creating a virtual highway for the actors to feel and react to and make the experience real and immersive. The technique pays off handsomely, and the atmospheric beauty that cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (3:10 To Yuma, The Descendants) captures—both inside the cab and in his footage of the highway—is oddly and wonderfully transfixing. The key to the film is still the human interaction, and while the dialogue has moments where it feels just a bit too flowery or on the nose, it’s all packed with a lot of insight and simple charm. 

A movie like Daddio lives and dies by the acting, and Hall had two seasoned pros to bring these characters to life. Two-time-Academy Award-winner Penn finds his most memorable vehicle in years to be a yellow cab. Penn finds an everyman likability mixed with a certain button-pushing playfulness in Clark that brings out the movie star quality that makes him one of the all-time screen greats. Johnson has really come into her own to become an enchantingly raw and natural presence, and she brings a mixture of frailty, wounded self doubt and inner strength to a characterization that is layered and disarmingly poignant. Girlie’s relationship with the unnamed man is easy enough to eschew, and watching the inner battle between the knowledge that she’s better than this and the fear that she’s not good enough is riveting and even heartbreaking. 

Daddio was a film that got its hooks into me and won’t let go. It’s a simple yet perceptive depiction of two people learning a bit more about themselves through active listening and honest sharing with someone they’ll never see again. It’s a small, character-based film that offers a refreshing change of pace from most of what’s in theaters right now, and it’s a ride that’s well worth taking. –Patrick Gibbs

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