Directed by Fabio Frey, from a script he and star Pedro Correa wrote together, My Dead Dad starts with home footage chronicling the life of Lucas as he and his parents go about various activities. As the years go by, the videos spotlight the dissolution of their marriage and Lucas’ love of skating. Now a young man, Lucas (Correa), learns that his recently deceased father, who he hasn’t seen in a decade, left him his estate, including the apartment complex he owned.
Desiring a change of scenery anyway, Lucas, half reluctantly, half willingly, leaves Reno for Los Angeles to inspect the apartments and find a buyer. But, as Lucas meets the various tenets, including the cute Sophie (Courtney Dietz) and handyman Frank (Raymond Cruz), a new side of his dad is revealed which pushes Lucas to reexamine what he thought he knew. Along for the ride are his skating buddies Kieffer (Booboo Stewart), Cosmo (Chris Pontius), and Uncle Tommy (Steven Bauer), who is deadset on Lucas selling.
The issue with My Dead Dad is that it has such a large roster of characters as tenets that a number of them seem to disappear without any bearing on the story; nor do they affect Lucas’ outlook on his father much. While the themes and ending still absolutely work, it feels like the narrative is dying to become much larger and richer, especially during the middle 40-minutes where certain elements feel a tad repetitive.
However, that is the only problem here, as the script and characterizations work beautifully. Viewers understand why Lucas resents his dad, but upon hearing how he helped all these people, it makes sense that the tenets would respect and like him. The writers never lose sight of this aspect, which makes the protagonist’s journey all the more realistic and emotionally impactful.
“… a new side of his dad is revealed which pushes Lucas to reexamine what he thought he knew.”
Of course, the cast of My Dead Dad helps there as well. Correa astounds as the perpetually frustrated Lucas, who seemingly can’t let anyone in for real. However, he has this line at the end (paraphrased) “Being there for someone who needs it when you are down is true love.” The actor delivers the line with conviction and sincerity, highlighting who he’s grown and changed over these last 90+ minutes.
Of course, the supporting cast is also amazing. Dietz is terrific fun as (potentially) the only good thing in Lucas’ life, while Cruz sells the older mentor thing well. In addition, Stewart brings some great levity to the proceedings, as does Bauer, who plays Uncle Tommy with the right amount of sweetness and sliminess.
However, what really establishes the film as a dramatic tale worth undertaking is the editing. Editors Frey, Correa, and Theo Cowen effortlessly weave through time, mood, and story as the various montages and jumps perfectly put audiences in the headspace of Lucas. That opening sequence is masterful, and a later one, wherein Lucas is driving all night to nowhere, recalls Breathless in the best possible way. While the framing of scenes outside of these sections is a bit pedestrian, whenever the visuals threaten to go flat, another wonderfully edited moment to highlight emotions or move the story along comes about and jazzes everything up in an unforgettable manner.
My Dead Dad could have been histrionic, filled with overacting, based on just its plot synopsis. However, thanks to carefully written characters, an excellent cast, and some jaw-droppingly inspired editing, the drama finds the truth in the small moments between people. That truth will stay with viewers long after the credits have finished and the house lights have come up.
"…various montages and jumps perfectly put audiences in the headspace of Lucas."