Every now and again, a movie comes with such a great plot and a well-deserved twist that it seems to fly under the radar for several years. It’s been almost 20 years since Elijah Wood played the iconic role of Frodo Baggins getting on the ship set for the grey heavens in the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Wood never received an Oscar nomination for his role in any of the movies despite being the center of the epic trilogy.
Afterwards, he took on roles to shed his good-boy persona. I remember a young girl, a Millennial, cheering when she saw his name and drawing in the final credits of King. He played a creepy guy who uses knowledge of Kate Winslet’s Clementine to woo her in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Then, he played a cannibalistic serial killer in the ensemble cast that was Sin City.
At 42, Wood still has remnants of that baby face and blue eyes that made young girls like the one I mentioned above swoon. Therefore, he probably jumped at the opportunity to play Norval in Come to Daddy, which is so off the wall as a black comedy-drama thriller, it can be seen as a companion to I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore where he helped Winslet’s Heavenly Creatures co-star Melanie Lynskey battle thugs throwing ninja stars as she tracks down who burglarized her home.
In Daddy, he plays Norval, a priviledged man who travels to the Pacific Northwest from his Beverly Hills mansion where he lives still with his mother to visit his estranged father he’s never seen since he was a wee kid. His father lives in a very isolated cabin on the shore that is hard to access. When he knocks on the door, a man (Stephen McHattie) is there. Confused, Norval tells him who he is and he’s embraced with a hug.
There’s tension, of course, as Norval and his father, whose name is Brian, play catch-up and try to get to know each other. Brian seems to do a lot of drinking and when they go to the beach for a swim in the ocean, Norval gets a rock thrown at him. He passes a lot of this off as just his father’s behavior. There’s strange things that happen at night as Norval talks on the phone. And then, one day, Brian goes nuts, picks up a meat clever, and tries to attack Norval. But he suffers a fatal heart attack
Unfortunately, there is a shortage at the morgue and Norval is forced to keep the body after it’s been embalmed at the cabin as they await for his mother to travel up a funeral. Norval gets drunk and begins to hear strange noises throughout the cabin. Is he going crazy? Or is there a supernatural entity at the cabin? What happens next I won’t say but Norval discovers what is really happening and it throws this whole movie into left field.
But what I like is how the movie earns its twist. Sometimes, movies do stupid things they don’t need to do like turning Barton Fink from a movie about a quirky movie about a writer with writer’s block into a movie about a murderer or Sorry to Bother You stating out as a satire about corporate America before turning into a stupid movie about a businessman wanting to turn people into human-horse hybrids. Daddy even feels something the Coen Brothers would do with their works.
At one point, Norval is having to sneak into a motel room where it looks like a bunch of Russians just got through having an orgy but are all sleeping to get into another motel room where a sleazy character has hired a prostitute to do what you’d least expect. You’ll never look at a check spindle the same way again after seeing this. I like movies that surprise me with their twists but still tell a good story not one that feels it need to pull the rug so I can be knocked down.
Daddy was released in the winter of 2020 and got bogged down by the impeding threat of Covid-19 and only made $117,974 at the box office. I feel it’s one of those movies that will find its audience over the upcoming years and be remembered as one of Wood’s best movies.
What do you think? Please comment.