Sharkey on Sundance: Catch 'Daddy Longlegs'
The notion of daddy longlegs, those comical spiders that look like they're wobbling around on stilts and are feared for a deadly bite of mythological proportions (an old wives' tale), turns out to capture the essence of the cynical charm of filmmaking brothers Benny and Josh Safdie's joint effort on "Daddy Longlegs."
The film stars a wonderful Ronald Bronstein as the dad you crave as a kid, still without a handle on "adult" responsibility, and the ex you absolutely fear, as if he might misplace the kids at any moment. At times, Lenny (Bronstein) comes close.
But mostly "Daddy Longlegs" is a heartwarmingly poignant look at the plight of a single dad trying to fill his two weeks with the kids each year with enough memories to last them through the other 50. They are his life, they complicate his life, which he has a hard time keeping up with when he's solo.
The entire film rests on the relationship between Bronstein and the kids, a real find in brothers Sage and Frey Ranaldo, who show a remarkable emotional range as Lenny's wild adventures dissolve them into giggles, and his difficulty with the basics -- like showing up on time -- turn out to be early/hard lessons they absorb with soulful eyes.
The Safdies have said "Daddy Longlegs" is loosely based on adventures with their own dad, and the film is indeed a window on how a creative life might be shaped. Lenny is about freedom and not being limited by the rules. He will make you love him and hate him, and in Bronstein's hands, you'll never forget him.
-- Film critic Betsy Sharkey
Photo: Frey Ranaldo as Frey, left, Ronald Bronstein as Lenny and Sage Ranaldo as Sage in "Daddy Longlegs." Photo credit: IFC Films