MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 28, 2024: DADDIO

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Two strangers make an unexpectedly meaningful connection in writer-director Christy Hall’s feature debut, Daddio. Play-like in the simplicity of its setting and focus on dialogue, this “two hander” drama is a fascinating character study that features nuanced, memorable performances by stars Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson as, respectively, a brash New York City cabbie and the pensive passenger he picks up at JFK airport to drive into Manhattan.

Johnson’s character, who is never named, is at first amused when Clark (Penn) starts ranting about what it’s like to be a Yellow Cab driver in the age of cashless payments and ride-sharing apps. She’s happy to banter with him a bit, as it distracts her from what appear to be conflicted feelings about the texts she’s getting from someone who seems to be trying to persuade her to come see him for a late-night welcome-home hook-up. Then Clark shifts into asking her questions about her travel, her work, and other aspects of her life, and their back-and-forth kicks up a notch, veering into more personal territory.

When the cab gets stuck in nasty traffic caused by an accident, driver and passenger have the opportunity to really engage with each other. Clark proves to be quite insightful, drawing conclusions about Johnson’s character and her situation based both on what she says and what she doesn’t say. She, in turn, both resents and appreciates his front seat psychoanalysis, taking his words to heart as she re-examines where she is and where she wants to be.

All in all, it’s pretty life-changing for a ride home from the airport — as well as a strong first feature for Hall. The taxi setting is never boring, with the way the camera moves between driver and passenger and how light plays off the glass of the car’s windows and mirrors. Johnson and Penn are both as expressive with their faces as they are with their voices, and the flow of their conversation largely feels organic (though perhaps in real life, Clark’s early, swear-filled tirade about credit cards might have shut the door on additional confidences). The result is a thoughtful drama about the impact that people can have on each other, even in the least likely circumstances. – Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Nell Minow: Daddio gives two superb actors a chance to make a quiet conversation between two people enthralling. Sometimes it is easier to tell our most painful truths to people we’ve never seen before and will never see again. No chases and explosions, no fistfight, superpowers, or weapons. Just two people stuck in traffic at night, not facing each other, no history or future together. Much of the film is close-ups of their wonderfully expressive faces, and the instant connection they develop draws us in.

Loren King An intimate two hander like Daddio, about passing strangers who manage the feat of connecting during a seemingly routine cab ride from JFK to midtown Manhattan, depends entirely on the two actors making the connection. Writer/director Christy Hall gets Sean Penn, as the cabdriver, and Dakota Johnson, as his passenger, to do just that. With silent reactions and expressive eyes — the craggy-faced Penn’s have never looked more brilliantly blue or more soulful — these two ships passing in the night share a conversation that starts at borderline creepy/voyeuristic and gradually turns tough but vulnerable, taking the audience on a trip that is surprising, confessional, tender, occasionally off-putting, and ultimately affecting. Maybe it’s a bit schematic that Dakota’s character, a young woman whose “daddy issues” rooted in abandonment are exposed as she texts with an unseen man during the traffic-clogged ride, finds a parental figure in the sandpapery driver who protectively schools her on the base ways of men. The human connection may be fleeting but we experience it in real time, in the confines of that cab, and it makes for an unforgettable journey.

Sherin Nicole “Daddio” is a slang term with many connotations—positive and negative—it all depends on how it’s said. Christy Hall’s new film Daddio carries a similar vibe. What we feel as a result of exchanges between the Passenger (Dakota Johnson) and the Cabbie (Sean Penn) relies on our life experiences. Whether or not we’ve been loved or hurt, and who did it. Filmed almost entirely in the cab, Daddio weaves back and forth between claustrophobic and intimate. Giving us a two-hander staged like a play; fueled by conversations that become confessions and guarded expressions that dissolve into weeping relief. Read full review.

Leslie Combemale Writer/director Christy Hall has created a very realistic, meaningful and intense film with Daddio, her first feature. It wouldn’t be the powerhouse that it is, however, without the collaboration of stars Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn, DP Phedon Papamichael, and composer Dickson Hinchliffe. Given nearly all of the story happens in one cab. It’s amazing, even given Johnson and Penn’s performances, how our attention never wavers. Clearly Hall has good taste and knows how to collaborate, and that is a great sign of what we might expect in her future. Read full review.

Jennifer Merin Written and directed by Christy Hall, Daddio takes place in a yellow cab en route from JFK airport to midtown Manhattan. Sean Penn plays the cab driver, a cynical soul with a heart of gold. Dakota Johnson is the passenger, a young woman who is returning to New York after vacationing with her family in her home town. The cab gets stuck in traffic, so the ride is prolonged, and the conversation between driver and passenger gets deeply intimate. Penn and Johnson play off each other beautifully. Truths are told, regrets are recounted, secrets are revealed. The conversation is one that could only begin between strangers who end up as good friends who will never see each other again. That’s about it. And it’s fascinating. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Sandie Angulo Chen: Daddio is a master class in acting by two amazing actors: Academy Award winner Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson. A two-hander that takes place nearly entirely in a yellow cab going from JFK to Manhattan, the movie focuses completely on the conversation between Johnson’s young, unnamed passenger and Penn’s old-school taxi driver. The conversation begins innocuously enough but during a traffic jam due to an accident, the banter turns into a piercing and revelatory exploration of personal truths about childhood, sex, gender roles, and relationships. Writer-director Christy Hall doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable topics — adultery, abuse, abandonment — and the two leads rise to the challenge of making this connection evolve from transactional to transformative.

Liz Whittemore In Christy Hall’s Daddio, a young woman hails a life-changing cab ride home. Starring Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn, this is one of the year’s most intimate and eye-opening films. Dickon Hinchliffe’s score draws you in like a siren at sea, as DP Phedon Paramichael’s lingering takes of Johnson cut with steady follow shots of the cab. Johnson is effortlessly charming but has the innate ability to convey trauma with nothing more than a glance. I don’t think she gets the acknowledgment she so deftly earns. Sean Penn continues to be a legend. He gives Clark a palpable authenticity. He is a master at reading people, like a skilled therapist. Clark pegs Johnson’s character in a matter of minutes. The chemistry between them is the stuff of cinema gods. The depth in this script is unfathomable. The conversational transitions are flawless. The dialogue tackles everything from technology to human connection, female aging to childhood trauma, and the psychology of relationships. It is fearless and unfiltered. Daddio is a glorious stage play on film.

Cate Marquis Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson star in a two-hander that takes place in a New York City cab, as cabbie Penn drives a young passenger Johnston to her mid-town home from the airport. They engage in a conversation that is wide-ranging at first but eventually centers on the relationships between men and women, while she texts her boyfriend from time to time. The two people, a middle-aged cabbie and a young successful woman, chat, trade views, share secrets in a kind of competition, and bare their souls to each other, all during the long night-time ride. Written and directed by Christy Hall, this finely-acted drama may bring to mind the classic My Dinner With Andre but this conversation has a sharper, sexier focus, delving into differing male-female viewpoints on relationships, expectations and dreams, through a single thoughtful, frank, even emotional exchange.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Daddio

Director: Christy Hall

Release Date: June 28, 2024 (limited theatrical)

Running Time: 101 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriter: Christy Hall

Distribution Company: Sony Classics

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Nikki Fowler, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).