Daddio Movie Review

“Daddio” is a movie with a pretty simple concept. It is a conversation in a cab, and a lot of talking in a taxi. The gruff driver and the wise-for-her-years young lady in the backseat test and probe each other for faults and flaws. Each one explains their life view – and they learn more than expected from the other person. In the end it is not the Destination, but the Journey…


It is late night at JFK in NYC — as the locals in New York would say. There is an attractive young woman just arrived from out-of-town, and now needs to go to Midtown. The next taxi cab comes up the transit station. The driver puts her bag in the trunk, and they both drive off. The driver says his name is Clark (played by Sean Penn).


Clark is ready to wrap up a long day. His temperament and demeanor might be called — in an earlier time — “Rude, crude, and socially unacceptable”. He does not know the name of his final passenger, but he calls her ‘Girlie’ (played by Dakota Johnson).


Clark is talkative, and uses cuss words like an artist would use paint. He can dab out little drips of foul language, or splash big red swaths of cursing. Girlie seems not be perturbed by this at all. She says she has heard worse. She lets Clark know that she is in I.T. and does programming. Clark is clueless about the code, so she explains that is really is all just a bunch of zeros and ones. That will represent a false state — or a true state.


Clark sees that as being philosophical. You could analyze all the decisions in your life as zeros and ones — Is this ‘True’, or is this ‘False’. Clark has spent many years in the ‘Drivers Seat” — so to speak — as a cabbie. So, he has picked up a lot of way to spot nuances in people’s behavior. Girlie, for example, is engaged with this conversation, but she is also preoccupied. She does not spend a lot of time on her cell phone, but there are quite a few text messages coming in.


Girlie is seeing a much older man, a guy who is well-known and high up in society. But he is married and he has no intention of leaving his wife and family. Clark is able to guess this is the case. In his honest and awkward way — he tells Girlie what he thinks. And he is correct; the motivations of Girlie’s married lover are not for long-term commitment and a lasting relationship. In fact, this guys is drunk at a bar asking Girlie to send some nasty photos. The way that Clark sees it – a man like that is wanting only instant gratification, no deep emotional ties…


There is a bad accident on the freeway ahead, and the traffic comes to total halt. This gives Girlie ample time to try and define why she is sticking with this older man. Clark says that is her choice — and each day she needs to go back to her programming analogy. The zeros and the ones, the False or the True — Is this relationship the best use of my time and energy? Will this time spent with this older man lead anywhere? Of course, Clark has made some missteps in his love life. And he does not shirk at laying out all the details.


Girlie explains that she was not born in New York. She refers to her birthplace as the ‘Armpit of Oklahoma’. She has an older sister, and a mother who walked out one day and did not come back. She has a father back there, but she never felt that he wanted anything to do with her. She had just come back from visiting her sister. Girlie might have some issues — and Clark thinks he has narrowed it down to a major ‘Daddy’ issue. Or would that be a ‘Daddio’ issue?


The traffic is moving again, and Clark is well on his way to getting Girlie back to where she wants to go. But they still have some major secrets to share, and some deeper emotions to uncover. Clark might have to start up his own “Therapy Taxi Service”. Girlie is not a slouch at getting some zingers back at Clark. He was no saint in the past, and his awkward beliefs and the way he states things now can be downright rude. But, in the long run — perhaps both of them have more out of this cab ride then they ever imagined…



“Daddio” makes great use of the confined space of a Yellow Cab. There is a power dynamic, the ‘Driver’ in the front and the Passenger in the back. But with some clever conversation and wordplay – the script turns this into an ever-shifting, fluid, back-and-forth tussle and discovery. Clark is not always in charge, and Girlie is not always meek and demure. It is a very interesting dynamic.


Sean Penn seems to fit perfectly into the role of driver and amateur shrink. He gets out all of his awkward dialog in such a way that you could believe that a downtown New York cabbie might speak that way. He gives ‘Clark’ a hard-edged ‘lived-in’ look, yet he is still gentle enough to care for plant in his front seat.


At first, Dakota Johnson seems a little stiff and unengaged. But that is a reflection of her character. Around the midway point, when the cab is stuck in traffic – ‘Girlie’ starts to really become interested in the conversion. You can see she is reconsidering her condition, that of being a mistress to a man of great power and wealth. Then, right near the very end – she unleashes on ‘Clark’ a harsh and emotional story.


Christy Hall, in this debut as a Screenwriter and as a Director, has done a praise-worthy job. She has taken a very simple premise and turned into a meaningful dialog between two flawed people. There is not a lot of action to be found in a cab ride, but she is able to make you feel enmeshed with the characters along the journey.


“Daddio” is a movie with two talented people and very insightful script. Then it turns on the cameras, kicks back, and allows you to become engaged with a very unusual cab ride.



Written and Directed by: Christy Hall
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Sean Penn
Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael
Edited by: Lisa Zeno Churgin
Music by: Dickon Hinchliffe
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Release date: June 28, 2024
Length: 101 minutes
MPAA rating: R for language throughout, sexual material and brief graphic nudity
Genre: Drama


Rating contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

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