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(The 2024 Tribeca Film Festival runs June 5-16, and as always, we have many boots on the ground. Check out Chris Reed’s Daddio movie review. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

Fans of Dakota Johnson looking to recover from the debacle (in every possible way) of her recent turn in Marvel’s Madame Web have good news on the upcoming cinematic horizon. Writer/director Christy Hall’s feature-directorial debut, Daddio, offers both Johnson and costar Sean Penn (Asphalt City) juicy roles as passenger and taxi driver on a simple ride from the airport that turns surprisingly metaphysical. Dialogue-heavy in the best sense of what that can mean, this mobile chamber piece shifts from disquiet to solace with poignant grace.

The time is the present (despite what the period-slang title might make you believe), and Johnson’s unnamed thirtysomething woman is back in New York from a trip to her childhood home in Oklahoma. On the ground at JFK airport, she grabs a yellow cab instead of calling an Uber or Lyft. This choice—so unmodern—fuels the initial stage of her conversation with driver Clark.

She’s his last fare of the evening, and he’s feeling loquacious, despite her initial taciturn gaze out the window. So they start talking, first about app culture, then about how credit-card clients are less likely to tip well, and more. He guesses she’s someone who “knows how to handle herself,” and she lets him guess. Though Clark (who jokes that a guy born in Hell’s Kitchen like him should really be named “Vinnie”) peppers his sentences with profanity, she is not offended and responds in kind. Despite their age difference, they hit it off. There’s even, perhaps, a hint of flirtation (though fortunately, this is not that kind of movie).

All the while, however, she is also texting with an offscreen lover, and the details of their relationship eventually become one of the subjects that she and Clark discuss. Clark volunteers facts about his own life—his two marriages and various sexual peccadilloes—and though he starts out with some bombast, becomes more reflective as she actually listens and offers feedback. Throughout, they remain cordial enough, despite pushing each other’s buttons.

It is an unexpectedly magical ride, showcasing a moment between two strangers that proves more than the sum of each part of their chat. And though a nighttime trip from JFK to Manhattan Midtown East might not normally last 101 minutes (then again, sometimes it could), director Hall manages the voyage in a completely believable manner, even throwing in a traffic accident to slow things down. Both actors are in excellent form, inhabiting their respective characters with depth and sincerity. Daddio seamlessly gets us to our destination with nary a clumsy swerve off a well-planned route.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

Daddio movie; Christy Hall; Sony Classics

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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