NOVA Film Festival Review: 'Daddy Issues'

Earlier in the week, I saw the new thriller A Quiet Place. I left the theater confident that I had seen the most shocking and horrifying movie of the year. Having now seen the new indie drama Daddy Issues, I feel confident that I was wrong. Though not a horror movie, Daddy Issues has its finger firmly on the pulse of what will just terrify you to your core. It’s everything you don’t want to see or think about, shot and edited beautifully. I honestly cannot remember the last time I was this happily shaken up by a movie before, especially one without any literal monsters or jump-scares. This is a quiet, human story that brilliantly made my skin crawl.

Having its regional premiere at last night’s NOVA Film Festival, Daddy Issues follows Maya, a young, queer, aspiring artist who wants nothing more than to escape the oppression of her yuppie mother and step-father and attend an Italian art school. Fortunately, she meets a muse and kindred spirit in Jasmine, an Instagram model she’s been following. They begin both a romantic and professional relationship together, spending all their time together and designing modern fashion pieces based around her drawings. Unfortunately for the young couple, there is the hiccup of Jasmine’s other relationship: a co-dependent, money driven, fetish deal with an older, drug addicted doctor she calls “Daddy.” Maya is jealous, Jasmine’s heart is torn in two, and the audience squirms at the specifics of the plot that I can’t get into here.

I am kind of walking on eggshells in summarizing this film, as I want to be careful not to give too much away. I was lucky enough to come into the film blind, and wouldn’t want to ruin this experience for anyone who intends on watching it in the future. Part of the brilliance of Daddy Issues was in its revelations. It seems like we’re watching several different plot lines when in reality we’re more seeing different vantage points of the same broad strokes story. These plots specifics that I’m dancing around are what make the movie as exquisitely messed up as it is. So without going into any further spoilers, please take my word for it when I say that this film is a beautiful nightmare.

One of the many things I loved about this film was its visual style. Director Amara Cash had a brilliant vision for the neon-punk world of millennial fashion design, and captures it in a way that feels like the hyperactive child of Phantom Thread and Spring Breakers. Fast moving cuts (set to blasting music) almost hypnotize you with patterns, whereas the lives of the adult characters are almost comically contrasted. They’re shown in static, long, dull, grey shots. You literally hear the clock ticking. It was a spot on way to show us, through style and visuals, the vastly different lifestyles inhabited by the intersecting characters.

I was genuinely floored by this film. It’s so beautiful and appalling at the same time. It’s haunting. This is one of those movies that, for numerous reasons that I truly don’t want to spoil, will stick with you long after it’s over. The acting is top notch. Visually, it’s gorgeous. The script is fascinating and deeply disturbing. Just about every aspect of the film was a home run. A soul-crushing home run. If this sounds like something your psyche can handle, I would highly recommend Daddy Issues.

Rating: 4 out of 5