Having a falling out with a family member you are close with can be difficult and the same can be said when you fall in love with a person you’ve never met online. Both experiences can leave you with the empty feeling of realizing you don’t really know them as well as you thought. In I Love My Dad, writer-director James Morosini crafts an endearingly funny and real film that displays that feeling honestly and cathartically.
Inspired by Morosini’s own real life events, I Love My Dad, tells the story of Chuck, a constantly lying divorced dad played by Patton Oswalt, who has realized that his son, Franklin, played by Morosini, has blocked him in all forms of communication. Worried about his son’s wellbeing after his attempted suicide, Chuck devises a plan to create a fake Facebook account based on a waitress he meets at a local diner named Becca, played by Claudia Sulewski, to keep an eye on his son.
Franklin, a shy and quiet 20-something, lost and without a sense of direction cautiously adds “Becca” as a Facebook friend and interrogates her to see if she’s even real. With the fear of losing his last remaining connection to his son, Chuck decides to lie again and again by disguising himself as “Becca” through chatting with Franklin. However, the lie begins to grow too big when Franklin starts to fall in love with “Becca” and decides to meet her in person, asking his dad to drive him to her.
Throughout its one hour and 36-minute runtime, I Love My Dad fires off with impressive performances from the principal cast, and it’s unique and thematically strong choices regarding its direction that haven’t left me since watching it. Patton Oswalt’s approach to Chuck cushions the blow of the uniquely terrible actions Chuck takes and makes him into someone you hope can change. Morosini’s vulnerable take on Franklin reflects an authenticity that made me feel everything he was going through. The color drained scenes of the real world that Chuck and Franklin inhabit provide a great shorthand of expressing their loneliness and depression. You feel the exhaustion and haze that these characters stumble through so that when the moments of happiness or excitement occur they pop with color that feels too good to be true. That too good to be true feeling unfurls into Morosini’s smart and thematically brilliant approach of portraying “Becca” and Franklin’s text exchanges into the realm of romantic comedy.
Oftentimes, when films try to show texting on screen they can often feel boring or strained but in I Love My Dad, the texting is instead played out as Franklin’s imagination of “Becca” being with him. The first text exchange Franklin has with “Becca” on the roof turns from being a lonely and real moment of him contemplating jumping into the ensuing meet cute with a wild and free-spirited love interest tornadoing through his quiet protagonist life. Sulewski’s performance sells the “perfect girlfriend” completely and the chemistry between her and Morosini makes it almost impossible not to wish it was real too until Josh Crockett’s editing strikes you back to the reality of Chuck’s actions reminding you just how easy all of this could crumble in an instant.
People tend to try and hide so much of themselves and present the most perfect version in hopes that the people they love will love them back, but that isn’t what makes either party happy. Oftentimes, it’s the fact that you are there and care about them is enough. Morosini provides an honest portrayal of how broken people can get lost under the spell of fantasy that can lead them from losing sight of what actually matters. Which is why I hope you take the chance to see I Love My Dad.