Written by: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, Ronald Bronstein
Starring: Ronald Bronstein, Sage Ranaldo, Frey Ranaldo
The minimum qualifications needed to become a parent falls solely in the biological sense, which means anyone who physically can be a parent could have the opportunity. That does not necessarily mean they have the emotional and personal maturity to handle the responsibility attached to caring for little humans. Through the twisty Daddy Longlegs, we witness the longest two weeks of a particular father’s life and how he manages to handle an annual visit from his kids.
Every year, Lenny (Ronal Bronstein) gets a two-week visit from his two sons per the custody agreement with his ex-wife. With the kids visiting, he must now readjust his life for this finite amount of time and finds the struggle in doing so as it clashes with his relationships and the job he’s holding by a very small thread.
The fatherly love displayed in Daddy Longlegs shows one of many complications. Judging by what we see from the behavior of Lenny and the circumstances he finds himself in, he did not win the husband or father of the year awards at any point. The details of the relationship he had with his ex-wife do not receive any expansion, but it can be inferred that things didn’t go so well seeing that he has such limited custody of his two sons. The evidence the rest of the film bares continues to justify why he finds himself in this situation as he displays a level of immaturity and carelessness that honestly endangers his children within the very limited time he has with them. I cannot speak to the havoc felt by single parents in the way they must manage everything without the help of another partner, but the way he spends the time he has with his two boys shocked me.
Even with us seeing the terrible parenting Lenny displays in this story, the film does a good job of also showing how this remains a very adult problem. While we see the horror of Lenny’s ways, the two sons do not seem to mind. That could be from them simply being happy to be with their dad or them not seeing the illogical circumstances his father puts them in. I’m sure this sentiment can be felt by many people as they look back at instances we saw as fun times, but through our adult perspective, we see the stupidity of the situation. It all adds up seeing as directors Josh and Benny Safdie loosely based this on their experience with their divorced father.
The way the Safdie brothers film this story utilizes a shaky-cam, which gives it a rustic look matching the streets of New York cataloged. As with all of their films, New York feels like a character as the story unquestionably could not be told in another city. The strange people they run into on the streets add the flavor necessary to display how New York feels for everyone living there. It feels personal in that way as they look at the places where they had plenty of fun as kids and enjoyed despite the definite drawbacks present.
Ronal Bronstein carries this entire film on his shoulders and he does it by allowing this character to be weirdly likable. Sure he cannot get himself together for the sake of his kids, but he definitely cares about them. He certainly tries his best even if we believe his behavior should be better considering he had plenty of time to prep for the arrival of his two sons. Bronstein gives off this “cool uncle” vibe with his parenting style, which works in short-term bursts but does not signify strong parenting skills. The child-like demeanor allows him to enjoy the time with his children and explains exactly why he had issues with his wife and continues to fail in other relationships he forms with women. He exemplifies the kind of person who should not be in charge of raising a child, but it’s hard to hate him because his effort makes him endearing at several points throughout the story.
The natural and real way this film comes together shows a level of love the Safdie brothers have for their father and it shows in the funny and moving Daddy Longlegs. For the audience, it becomes a wild ride to see how much this man will continually fail in creating a proper visit for his kids, but they seem to have fun with the time they spend with their father. Several moments will leave you shaking your head in disbelief and I guarantee at least one gasp from anyone watching one of the scenes where he tries to fit all of his commitments into one night.