“Daddio”: Powerful Performances

When I read about this film, I was intrigued by the concept and more interested because of Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson. Both are very talented so I was hopeful for a successful film. What I watched, however, blew me away. Both gave powerful performances in “Daddio, honest, authentic, and nuanced. While the film is very dialogue and character driven, it is emotional and dynamic.

The film “Daddio” is a drama film produced, written, and directed by Christy Hall. It follows a young woman (Dakota Johnson) who lands at JFK International Airport and takes a cab back to her apartment in Manhattan. When her driver, Clark (Sean Penn) strikes up a conversation, the pair of them have unexpectedly honest conversation that includes their past and present relationships, sex and power dynamics, loss and vulnerability. This conversation is intertwined with her texting her current boyfriend and we see how the discussion impacts their relationship. 

This film is one of the most authentic films I’ve watched in quite some time. Once upon a time, I was a late night driver for a transportation company so this gave me flashbacks to some of my most memorable passengers. One of the reasons that it did was how well the conversation between the pair begins, just two people chatting. While none of my conversations have ever been this in depth, I can tell you from experience that there were times that I connected like this as a driver. The set up and discussion between the two was honest, breathtakingly real and believable. Late night driving can lead to some of the most intimate conversations imaginable. And while the film tackles some difficult topics, it does so with nuance and humor, lightening some of the darker moments with warmth and laughter. 

The other reason I was impressed is because of how streamlined the cast, the story and the performances were set up. In addition to Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson, there are only two other actors in the entire film and one of them doesn’t even speak. The plot is driven entirely by the dialogue between Dakota’s character and Penn’s as well as the texts written to and written back by Dakota. It is completely absorbing and engaging. The film sets up how intelligent and strong Dakota’s character is but also how perceptive Clark is as he observes her behavior. While his language is crude at times, it is also highly intelligent and insightful, taking in her emotions and offering her wisdom learned through both mistakes made but also a different perspective. And while the film explores sex and power dynamics in their discussion, their conversation explores relationships, in particular, father-daughter dynamics. While the pair joke, they actually make a true connection with each other, albeit one that is temporary and that connection allows for a remarkable story to unfold. And that connection is at the heart of this film, a loving relationship created and completed in just a few hours drive. 

In a film with two characters, it would not work without some incredible performances. Dakota Johnson gives us a profoundly beautiful and vulnerable performance, showing us a woman that is at turns tough and powerful but also emotional and filled with loss. Her performance is emotional. Her chemistry with Sean Penn is amazing. It is entirely a connection forged of parental style wisdom and humor. The pair interact so well that they pull the audience along with them, keeping you absorbed and engaged with what will happen next between the pair. Sean Penn is powerful and dynamic as Clark, insightful and perceptive. Both are able to infuse humor into their scenes and true warmth. 

While the film appears slow, part of this allows us as the audience to experience the reality of a nighttime drive. Between the quiet moments when Dakota’s character is alone or texting and the music that heightens the emotions that the pair delve into, that slowness is deceptive, pulling you back to the thoughts and discussion between the pair. It also allows the audience a moment to consider the ideas and thoughts both characters express. And the slow build up, the drive into New York, all comes to a brilliant resolution that is profound and emotional. 

If you like films that are dialogue and character driven, this is one of the most powerful films of this year. With a streamlined cast and a straightforward concept, it is deceptively simple, guiding the audience to some intriguing ideas and demonstrating that connections between individuals can happen at any time and place. Sometimes what we truly need is a friend in the middle of the night who can tell us the truth and see ourselves in a different light. The powerful performances and beautiful heart of this story will make me reflect and this is one film that I’ll want to watch again and again, just to appreciate the dynamic storytelling.

5 out of 5 texts 


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