Daddy Longlegs

Daddy Longlegs


Reviewed by: Nick Da Costa

Speaking as a Sundance newb, Daddy Longlegs is exactly the kind of movie I expected from the festival. Low-budget, stripped back aesthetic with raw, naked emotion. Shot almost like a docu-drama, it tells the story of NY man-child Lenny (Ronald Bronstein) and the annual visit of his kids, Sage and Frey for two weeks. This is a precious time in his life and even though he’s working all hours as a film projectionist - a metaphor for his recollections and the stitched together feel of the movie - he works hard to create the memories, whether magical, outlandish or downright stupid, that will cement a bond that can never be broken.

What Lenny refuses to accept is that fatherhood must, necessarily, put distance between the man and his progeny. Responsibility is about setting rules, after all. Instead Lenny is father in the same way that a king wears a crown. It’s status. A boast. A graffito on a shop blind. Unfortunately, as Lenny finds out in that last incident, getting arrested by the cops, this is a fantasy.

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What directors Benny and Josh Safdie have done here is show the destructive effects of fairytale which, in the hands of Lenny, turns dangerously sedated kids into sleeping princes, while protecting the positive, sometimes joyous memories formed in defiance of the equally destructive encroaching reality.

The father’s bond is ingrained in every moment of the film, and anyone who threatens this is childishly tossed aside. The girlfriend, the boyfriend of a woman he picks up in a bar, one of the children’s classmates who challenges Lenny for mischief-making. He even treats a telephone conversation with the children’s mother as a means of boasting, destroying her in an argument in front of them then turning to them as if it were something to be congratulated.

Funnily enough you can’t help but like the guy. Bronstein giving a brilliantly naturalistic performance as the trisexual, irresponsible, charismatic, loveable shit; balancing both our disgust and admiration as he tries to do something inspirational. Equally, the direction is superb, moving between a roving camera that keeps its distance, not wanting to disturb or break the connection, and one that pulls in close, making us accomplices as we remember what it was like to wish we could be so wilful, dumping cereal out on the floor to get the toy now. Not waiting like any normal father would expect. And that’s what the movie does. Defies expectation and has you gripped throughout.

Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2010
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Daddy Longlegs packshot
A happy-go-lucky man tries to bond with his kids but can't quite get the hang of responsibility.
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Director: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

Writer: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

Starring: Ronald Bronstein, Sage Ranaldo, Frey Ranaldo

Year: 2009

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US


Sundance 2010

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