3 Days With Dad


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

3 Days With Dad
"Clarke puts a lot of trust in his actors, allowing room for personalities to emerge naturally."

Eddie (played by writer/director Larry Clarke) has long had a fractious relationship with his father Bob (Brian Dennehy), who presided over a household in which men didn't talk about their feelings and were expected to prove their worth through their achievements - something he has since singularly failed to do. Now in his fifties, he has at least succeeded in getting out of town to live life on his own terms, but when he hears that Bob is dying, the same guilt that has contributed to their difficulties compels him to return. There, over the course of Bob's last three days and the remembrances that follow, he tries to come to terms wit what went wrong, catches up with his siblings and old friends, and uncovers a secret that changes his perspective on pretty much everything.

Larry Clarke is one of those names that you're most likely to be familiar with if you're a fan of US crime shows - he's been in a lot of them over the course of a 22-year career as an actor. This is his first venture into directing and it's a highly polished piece of work, exhibiting the poise and awareness of somebody who has had a lot of opportunity to watch capable people at work before trying it for himself. It seems probable that his expansive acting résumé has also helped him to secure his excellent ensemble cast - like him, these are largely people whom you will find yourself pointing out to friends, convinced that you recognise them but not quite sure where from. Aside from a brief supporting appearance by JK Simmons, who can't help but steal his scenes in a role that seems to have been written especially for him, they exhibit the kind of gracious teamwork that allows everybody some room to shine, and there are really no weak links.

What makes the film stand out among other recent indie family dramas is its low key approach. Clarke puts a lot of trust in his actors, allowing room for personalities to emerge naturally. There are some very funny lines in the script but it's the unfussy, relaxed delivery of them that makes the film more than just clever, giving it depth and warmth. Even the big revelation is approached lightly. This isn't a film that's really interested in shock and confrontation (for all its plethora of family squabbles and its somewhat militant priest) so much as it's interested in what happens next - in how people reconcile their difficulties, untangle their emotions and figure out ways forward.

For a film with death at its heart, this is a remarkably upbeat piece of work. Eddie's mother is seriously affected by grief but everybody else has already come to terms, to some degree, with what's going to happen, and despite occasional outbursts, they're making an effort to manage their emotions. The disputes that develop are more the sort of thing you might expect around a Thanksgiving dinner table than displays of nothing-left-to-lose anger. Furthermore, in spite of them all it is impossible to lose sight of the love that binds this family together. Several of the characters show an awareness of their own mortality and the various difficulties that come with age but this is approached with wry humour and a sense that life still has a lot to offer. Eddie's paraplegic friend, for instance, delights in the fact that he can't feel pain in his paralysed limbs and can therefore just sit and laugh when his behaviour earns him a slap.

At once playful and thoughtful, 3 Days With Dad makes room for the deep emotions its subject deserves without ever letting them become overwhelming. It's a film full of small observations paving the way for insights its protagonist could never have dreamed of, and it will warms its audience's hearts.

Reviewed on: 12 Sep 2019
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A man who reluctantly returns to his hometown to see his dying father is confronted with news that changes his whole perspective on life.

Director: Larry Clarke

Writer: Larry Clarke

Starring: Larry Clarke, Brian Dennehy, Lesley Ann Warren, Julie Ann Emery, JK Simmons, Amy Landecker, Jon Gries

Year: 2019

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: US


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