My Dead Dad (2021) review: Profound tale of growth

My Dead Dad is a coming of age drama that follows the escapades of Lucas Varela (Pedro Correa) after he discovers that his distant father has passed from lung cancer and left him an apartment building in LA. He travels to the city in hopes of selling the property but learns a lot about his old man from the people who knew him.

Story

Lucas Varela is a troubled young man from Reno, Nevada, who has held a grudge against his father for leaving the family. Not having seen him for 10 years, Lucas finds out that he has passed due to lung cancer and left him an apartment building in LA.

His mom explains that the reasons for their separation were quite complicated and the only way to explain it to him as a kid was to portray that his dad was wrong.

After thinking about what his mom said, Lucas travels to LA to meet up with his Uncle Tommy and sell the property.

However, when he meets with a few old friends and the residents of the building, he gets to know a lot about his father, going on a journey of growth, self-discovery and acceptance.

Performances

My Dead Dad is a collection of powerful acting performances starting with Correa as Lucas. His depiction of a troubled boy struggling to cope with the trauma of losing his estranged father is spot on.

You can feel his chaotic emotions bubbling inside his stern exterior, waiting to explode and make sense of everything. He also portrays the regret of not getting a chance to connect with his old man again, brilliantly.

Another stellar performance is by Raymond Cruz who plays the building’s handyman, Frank. An old friend of Lucas’ dad, he acts as the father figure for the protagonist.

Dealing with his own sorrows, Cruz expertly uses Frank’s character to share profound methods of coping with trauma. His presence in the film provides a much needed stability as everyone else feels like they’re always on edge.

Courtney Dietz plays Sophie, the tenant who befriends and then sleeps with Lucas despite being in a committed relationship. Her character is extremely flawed but she hits the nail on the head in terms of showcasing those flaws.

Her indecisiveness about life defines her and it eventually ends up hurting Lucas rather than helping him cope.

The rest of the supporting cast including Simon Rex, Booboo Stewart, Steven Bauer and more do their best with the limited time they have on screen.

Positives

My Dead Dad is an earnest and well written drama. The setting and the characters feel authentic, and the rustic yet bright LA backdrop breathes life into the narrative.

Witnessing Lucas’ journey — from being a loathsome, self pitying and confused man to finally accepting his dad’s decisions — is a brilliant experience. Each step feels like a natural progression hat moulds him into a new person

The use of old VHS style footage to depict the past is a great addition and works well as a narrative choice. It is great to see that the conclusion is more about acceptance rather than making everything right for the protagonist.

Lucas does not get everything that he wants but rather what he needs to become a better person and look forward to the future.

Negatives

My Dead Dad can feel a bit predictable and preachy at times. After a while, every conversation between characters is a life lesson that would make most people introspect, but also maybe annoy some for whom these thoughts and concepts aren’t new.

The way the film is edited can feel absurd at times. There are sudden jump cuts with no proper resolution to the scene before, making things feel a bit incomplete in instances.

The dynamic between Lucas and Sophie, even though executed very well, adds nothing to the narrative whatsoever. The romantic angle riddled with infidelity seems to be there just so the makers could introduce deep concepts about love, romance, betrayal and dependency in conversations.

The film could have used even more time dedicated to Lucas dealing with the part of his past that was related to his dad rather than trying to win over a girl who’s about to get married.

Verdict

My Dead Dad is one of those rare films in today’s date that make you pause and think. It is definitely worth watching as it may actually leave you with eye-opening concepts and ideas about life.

Rating: 3/5


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