Ken Adachi’s debut feature Dead Dad presents
a story about grief, family, and distance, soaked in a hipster aesthetic
and set in a warm lo-fi Los Angeles cityscape. Accompanied by tonally
appropriate indie tunes and fashionable styling, the film also
manages to feel natural, emotionally relevant, and -- most impressively -- realistic.
the film, three estranged siblings in their mid-20’s and -30’s are
reluctantly brought together to tie up loose ends after their
alcoholic father’s death. We quickly learn that his life and their
family have long been unraveling. The siblings try to figure out how to do right
by their father while confronting their own issues. It’s quality family time, for better or worse. Tasks
such as cleaning out their father’s house or deciding where to dispose
of his ashes become a battle of wills, age-old sibling power plays, and
Homecomings or family reunions often force one to
see things from a different perspective. This is true for both the
eldest son Alex (Lucas Kwan Peterson) -- who's practical yet resentful and was
not even expected to come back for the funeral -- and Jane (Jenni Melear) who misses the funeral
entirely due to missed texts and lack of planning foresight. The
combined dysfunction, lack of communication, and resistance to reach out
to one another -- along with the underlying grief they are loathe to
confront -- hangs over them all.
stripped-down plot is wisely chosen and it allows for the strong lead
performances and more subtle moments in the film to breathe. There are
also moments of levity: an impromptu road trip, goofing around, and a
natural easiness between the lead actors makes for scenes you just want
to keep hanging out in.
Dead Dad, shot on a shoestring budget, with funds raised by a successful Kickstarter campaign, was
created by a group of film school buddies and friends. The friend energy comes through clearly in the acting and the collaborative spirit feels good. The film bestows
powerful insights and I’m interested in what’s to come from Adachi and his band of friends.
Dead Dad screens on March 16, 2013 6:40 pm and March 24, 2013 12:30 pm at New People, and March 19, 2013 6:15 pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.
Check out all of Hyphen's CAAMFest 2013 reviews.