Directed by: Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie Cast: Ronald Bronstein, Sage Ranaldo, Frey Ranaldo Running Time: 1 hr 40 Rating: R Release Date: July 2, 2010
PLOT: Lenny (Bronstein) gets his kids (the Ranaldo brothers) for two weeks and proceeds to be a loving, but questionable, parent.
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of independent films, like really independent in the vein of Cassavetes.
EXPECTATIONS: I knew nothing about this film so I was just hoping for something good.
Ronald Bronstein as Lenny: A first time actor, he does a great job as a Dad who loves his kids despite not being responsible enough to take care of them. It's a pretty intense performance, Bronstein managed to break my heart despite the fact that you don't really want him with the kids. He's constantly putting them in dangerous situations, whether going to the grocery store alone or leaving them with someone who's practically a stranger. Despite this, he's still a likable character, well, at least he's sympathetic. And Bronstein does a pretty convincing job making you believe him. Score: 8
Sage and Frey Renaldo as Sage and Frey Sokol: I'm putting the kids together because I can't tell who's who. But that's not meant as a condemnation, the kids do a great job playing, well, kids. The Renaldos (sons of Sonic Youth's Lee) just seem like kids, not like they're acting. They're rambunctious and act up but seem like good kids who need a lot of supervision. For that reason my heart was in my throat for a bit of the film and I kept reminding myself, this is just a movie, it isn't real, the kids are fine. That must be a good sign. Score: 8
TALKING: The film was entirely ad-libbed based off a treatment. Still, everything sounds natural without sounding annoying. Kids speak like kids, Lenny speaks like a normal guy who's reasonably well spoken and I never questioned the authenticity of the language. Score: 7
SIGHTS: New York City is shot lovingly, but also truthfully. It looks fascinating, fun, dirty and dangerous. Score: 7
SOUNDS: Just the normal chaos of City streets. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: When the kids don't wake up after being given the sleeping pills. It was just crazy and I kept wondering how are they getting water? Can they eat? Will they be OK? It was heart wrenching.
ENDING: Pretty open to interpretation. Does Lenny keep the kids or does their mother manage to find them? I confess, I was left a bit uneasy by the ending. They just can't stay with their father, they'll never survive childhood.
QUESTIONS: Does their mother find them? Will Lenny ever see his kids again? Should he? Can excessive love make up for a lack of responsibility?
REWATCHABILITY: Pretty high, it really sucks you in.
Daddy Long-Legs is a genuine independent film. It not only lacks the studio system but any recognizable actors or crew. But it's a really interesting film. Lenny's a flawed guy who loves Sage and Frey but just can't be a good parent to them. The Safdie brothers film without judgment, they show Lenny and his actions but they don't suggest that he's a good or bad Dad. We see him make bad choices, but at the same time he loves his kids, plays with them and is beloved by them. It's a complicated story about people with actual depth, that was probably the most startling part of the film, I haven't seen a lot of three dimensional characters lately. In a summer full of shallow films, this is a breath of fresh air.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10