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Dakota Johnson in 'Daddio' at Tribeca Film Festival
Dakota Johnson in 'Daddio' at Tribeca Film Festival (courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)

Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘Daddio’


Daddio enjoyed its New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival 2024, where it screened in the “Spotlight Narrative” category.

In the Q&A before the Daddio screening, Christy Hall, in her directorial debut at Tribeca, prepped the audience about her feature. First, she mentioned that the situation in the film recalled the days before Uber. With Lyft, Uber and other car services, people often don’t talk to the driver because of the digital arrangement. Second, she emphasized the film’s concept of “once-in-a-lifetime” shared moments between strangers. Because of the individuals’ relative anonymity in the type of situation depicted, personal details easily related receive no blowback. Deep conversations hold no risks.

In Daddio, for such a personal interchange, Hall cast two superb actors. Sean Penn’s realistic, raw acting style as a yellow taxi driver contrasted with Dakota Johnson’s passenger’s sweet directness.

A Random Taxi Ride Turns from Silence to Friendliness

With these two powerhouse actors, the two-hander resonates as a tour de force. At first in this random yellow cab airport pickup from JFK Airport to Midtown Manhattan, silence prevails. Then, after a spark of conversation, jokes follow, then pleasantries, then a game. By degrees, the conversation slides into a more personal realm.

Sean Penn in 'Daddio' (courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)
Sean Penn in Daddio (courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)

Sean Penn’s Clark, something of a psychologist of passengers, guesses correct details about the passenger who never reveals her name. Intermittently, Johnson’s character checks her phone and we note the sexual chat her boyfriend initiates, which Hall includes onscreen. Cleverly, manipulatively, the boyfriend flatters her then asks to come over for sex. Watching her reactions, Clark intuits that something upsets her about the chat.

The game segues into more interchanges and deeper backstories about the young woman’s upbringing. As the dialogue twists and turns, Clark confronts her with information about herself, which startles. At first, she responds with upset and annoyance. Then he reveals how he gleaned the information about her personal life with her boyfriend.

The Conversation Twists

Indeed, he recognizes himself in her partner. But as the driving dialogue continues, we learn the two characters differ from their appearances and attitudes.

Another segue occurs, a realistic one. The traffic slows and Clark comes upon an accident which halts their journey to Manhattan. Unfortunately, since Clark receives only a flat fare, he can’t benefit from this waste of time when he could be picking up other passengers. Changes in the taxi business since Uber have also meant cab drivers don’t make as much.

A Complex, Layered Performance from Sean Penn

Clark’s rough exterior and “city accent” belie his intelligence. He predicts the end of car service and yellow cab drivers as driverless cars and AI take over. Expertly, Johnson’s character draws him out with pauses and humor.

Prompted by the delay, they exchange stories about key people in their lives. As their conversation drives into secret territory, Clark shares his advice from a lifetime of dating, marriage, two divorces and other experience. The heartfelt connection they forge shows the importance of human feeling in a culture that isolates and alienates via the obsession with phones, online media and political divisiveness.

Writer/director of 'Daddio', Christy Hall after the screening at Tribeca FF (Carole Di Tosti)
Writer/director of Daddio, Christy Hall after the screening at Tribeca Film Festival (Carole Di Tosti)

Hall’s Theater Background Informs Her Dialogue

Hall’s terrific dialogue speaks to her background in theater. Without plot or gimmicks to maintain interest, the actors’ authenticity and nuanced performances make them immediately identifiable and more complex than we initially anticipate. We follow every word understanding the sub rosa meaning behind them. Depicting the kind of bonding that mystically occurs between people, Hall’s film strikes a deep, fascinating chord. Funny, sexy, tense and poignant, the characters’ encounter impacts both of them and provides inspiration and hope for them to move to the next chapter of their lives.

Daddio‘s setting, traveling at night the roads of New York City, references Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver. But Hall never steps away from the cab interior, instead focusing on the intensity between two individuals. The film’s gentle beauty pays homage to New York City and the complexity of the lives lived there.

The Tribeca Film Festival concluded Sunday, June 16. Look for Daddio on streaming platforms after it is in theaters on June 28.

About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' ( 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.

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