Indie to a fault, Fabio Frey’s My Dead Dad tries and fails to reach an emotional connection between an estranged father and son.
Pedro Correa stars as Lucas Varela, a former amateur skateboarder living in Reno, Nevada. His mother Jane (Terry Walters) informs him of his estranged father’s death. Lucas has been given the whole of his father’s estate, which includes an apartment complex in Los Angeles.
Lucas heads to LA and tries to make sense of his new responsibilities. He meets with Frank (Raymond Cruz), the building’s superintendent and his father’s best friend. He also connects with local tenant Sophie (Courtney Dietz) as a potential romantic interest. Along the way, Lucas tries to grasp the man his father was and come to terms with their broken relationship.
Though the film focuses on Lucas’ attempts to make something of his life outside of Reno, the shadow of his father looms large. Instead of flashbacks, grainy remnants of VHS tapes of Lucas’ skateboarding and interactions with his father intercut the current story.
This feels like a film that hit a lot of personal notes for the filmmakers, but it turns into an inside joke that the audience isn’t a part of. Instead of having the context, the audience is thrust into this story without the benefit of understanding why they should care. There is a cavernous disconnect between what the filmmakers want to show and what the film is actually able to reach.
Correa, who also co-wrote the film, is the epitome of an aimless guy in his 20s. He’s boyishly handsome, but a fairly blank slate. We don’t know much about him and why he is struggling so much. There is backstory that isn’t there that is crucial for his characterization. Cruz is more of a sage of worldly advice than an actual character. He does his best with what he has, but every line has an obviously deeper meaning that never truly connects.
The other secondary characters are much more interesting. Simon Rex continues his comeback as Sophie’s boyfriend. His character seems phony, but might be the most genuine in the whole film. Chris Pontius and Bobo Stewart are former skater friends of Lucas and provide a nice detour into silly, though it is few and far between.
My Dead Dad is trying just a little too hard to be deeper than a basic surface-level drama. It all came out as too manufactured attempting to be an indie sleeper. It doesn’t do anything egregious, but I could never get there to fully connect.
My Dead Dad is now streaming on HBO Max
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