Amazon Prime Festivals Movie Reviews SXSW

SXSW 2020: “Daddio” Short Film Review

“Daddio” is probably the most high-profile short film I watched as part of Amazon Prime’s SXSW 2020 collection. It’s also the longest, clocking in at nearly 20 minutes.

It’s the directorial debut of Casey Wilson (“Saturday Night Live,” “Happy Endings”), and she made a video introducing the film because it’s incredibly personal to her. “Daddio” is “a comedy based on real death events” — more specifically, it’s a slightly fictionalized telling of her relationship with her father following the death of her mother. That’s obviously a painful memory to source material from, but a lot of the best comedy does come from dark subject matter.

Wilson stars as Abby (the fictionalized version of herself), while comedy legend Michael McKean plays her dad. In the intro video, the actress joked about her real father’s own short film: the 40-minute video he sent to McKean about how he wanted to be portrayed. The short also features June Diane Raphael and Adam Pally as a couple of Abby’s friends. They come over to visit with Abby and her father when he stays with her a year after her mother’s funeral.

“Daddio” opens with Abby’s eulogy for her mother, which of course is touching and emotional… until McKean yells something from the back of the church about rereading the last line so it’s not mumbled. He is, of course, the funeral’s videographer — and he’s taking it very seriously, much to Abby’s chagrin.

It’s clear that these two are a sort of odd couple who don’t agree on how things should be handled in almost any situation. Why did her dad bring beach chairs with him, and where are they supposed to fit in her car? Why is his hair so curly? Is that a perm? (The perm is another part of the story that Wilson claims to be true — her father really did get a perm in the trying times after her mother died.) Why does Abby keep her laundry in a 99-Cent Store shopping cart in her bedroom? Why does she sleep in the closet most nights instead of on her bed?

But the proverbial shit really hits the fan when Raphael and Pally show up, though not because of them. Abby’s dad brings out actual photos (from an actual camera!) to go through and reminisce. It starts out fine, with photos of happier times and the inner workings of a dam. But then Abby finds photos of her mother postmortem, and she blows up at her father. It’s highly uncomfortable, especially since it would be easy to understand both sides of this argument: Abby definitely doesn’t want to see photos of her mother’s corpse as she’s still grieving the loss, and her dad made an unorthodox choice in an uncertain time, when he was losing someone who had been the biggest part of his life for decades.

Luckily for us, “Daddio” ends on a much brighter note, and we get to see Abby and her father reconnecting — or possibly connecting in a way they never have before. It’s a sweet little film that should have you looking at the bigger picture whenever you find yourself in an argument with someone close to you, especially in touchy times such as these. The bittersweet cherry on top of “Daddio” is the tribute at the end to Paul Wilson and his perm.

As you may expect, the acting in this short is spot-on. All of the actors involved have incredible comedic timing, and even in moments that are more serious, there’s not a weak link. Other standout aspects of the film, from a technical standpoint, are the set dressing and costuming. Abby’s home is as much a mess as she is emotionally, and the clothing that both she and her father wear at different points in the story help tell the narrative in a more visual sense. It’s an all-around well-crafted short, and you won’t want to miss it.

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