I Love My Dad arrives on digital platforms on January 23rd 2023. Reviewed October 7th 2022.
James Morosini’s I Love My Dad dovetails classic cringe comedy with a deeper look at a father/son relationship on the rocks. Here Morosini could have opted for straight-up cringe comedy, and while there is plenty of that on display, at its heart, I Love My Dad is a touching and unique exploration of male emotional repression. However, what makes Morosini’s film even more interesting is that his tale of a father who pretends to be someone else online to be close to his son is a true story.
Talking about his experience in an interview with Jenelle Riley in Variety, Morosini said, “Yeah. I stopped talking to my dad — he lied about something, and we had a big fight, and I cut him out of my life. I think when you’re 20, you see things in a very black-and-white way, and I was very absolute about things. At that point, I didn’t know how to set clear boundaries in my life. I got home one day, and this really pretty girl had sent me a friend request. She was awesome and had all the same interests and all these amazing pictures. And then I soon found out it was my dad.”
Morosini and his dad are now close, but the situation highlights modern society’s social media obsession. After all, while few parents would go to the extreme of catfishing their child, how many have spied on their offspring’s activities on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter in the hope of understanding more about their lives? The answer is probably quite a few! The truth is all parents struggle to let go of the child they once knew as their son or daughter grows and becomes independent of their care, and when a parent is cut out of their son or daughter’s life, this struggle becomes even more urgent. This does not mean I am excusing Morosini’s dad’s actions, but his behaviour does highlight the complexities of our 24/7 online world.
I Love My Dad’s premise is simple in structure yet also complex in its core themes. Franklin (Morosini) has a problematic and uneasy relationship with his father, Chuck (Patton Oswalt), who separated from his mother many years ago. Franklin has been suffering from depression and anxiety for a long time, and his father hasn’t helped by constantly letting him down and avoiding family get-togethers. Therefore, Franklin has decided to cut his dad off, blocking him on social media and avoiding his calls.
James Morosini – I LOVE MY DAD (2022)
Chuck knows he hasn’t been the best dad, but Franklin’s decision to block him hits him hard, and thanks to an initially innocent conversation with his friend (Lil Rel Howery), he decides to make a fake Facebook account and add his son as a friend. But first, Chuck needs to find a profile that could hook his son in, and inspiration comes from Becca (Claudia Sulewski), a young waitress who served him a few times at a Maine diner. Using her Facebook photos for his new account, Chuck sends a friend request to his son, and Franklin accepts. But a simple request and chat will soon lead to online love for Franklin and a seriously screwed-up stunt for Chuck.
From the outset, Morosini knows the subject matter will make his audience squirm, and he delights in setting up situations where the cringe dial is turned to the maximum as we watch through our hands. There is undoubtedly bravery in doing this, and that bravery is only strengthened by the artistic decision to have the actors play out their online conversations in a physical space. The result is a ticking bomb that you know is set to explode, but the timer is faulty, and you have no idea when it will go off. But when it does, it is devastating for both men in a finale that isn’t afraid to tackle some substantial social taboos.
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So you may be asking yourself, where is the comedy? While there are some exquisite comedic setups, I Love My Dad is no conventional dark situation comedy. Oswalt’s Chuck is lovable and despicable, a complex and damaged figure rarely seen in a standard comedy outing. At the same time, Morosini’s Franklin is vulnerable and emotionally delicate yet stronger than he thinks. Watching Morosini and Oswalt bounce off one another is an absolute joy, and their performances ensure I Love My Dad works. Here they explore the anger and hurt left to fester between a father and son and the choice of silence and avoidance over communication and emotion.
While there are laughs along the way, I Love My Dad is far more than just a cringe comedy; it explores closed-off male emotions, failed communication and the desperate need to reconnect. Here the situation comedy and the road trip drama combine to create something unique. Yes, it has moments of cringe, and Chuck is an asshole of the highest order. But there’s also a tremendous amount of tenderness in this razor-sharp father/son journey.
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While there are laughs along the way, I Love My Dad is far more than just a cringe comedy; it explores closed-off male emotions, failed communication and the desperate need to reconnect.