I Love My Dad review: Patton Oswalt catfishes his son

Patton Oswalt and James Morosini as Chuck and Franklin in I Love My Dad.
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Based on the real-life actions of James Morosini’s father, I Love My Dad is an uncomfortable yet sincere comedy.

James Morosini writes, directs and stars in this often-cringey but sincere comedy based on the real-life actions of his own father. Patton Oswalt plays Chuck, the estranged father of Franklin who’s so desperate to get his son to talk to him again that he resorts to ridiculously desperate measures – he catfishes him. What follows is an absurd comedy that gets into some very awkward territory, but also openly and honestly deals with mental health and father/son relationships.

For the lonely Franklin, Becca (the real-life waitress that Chuck is pretending to be) is a lifeline. Their online chats are brought to life by the film’s depiction of them as imagined in-person conversations – and this is also where a lot of the humour is found.

Their chats illustrate just how absurd text conversations can be, as Morosini and the vibrant, energetic Claudia Sulewski act out typos and long lines of awkward ‘hahahaha’s completely earnestly. It’s an inventive way to present what might otherwise be shown through text on the screen and shots of people’s phones, and it brings something new, interesting and awkwardly amusing to an otherwise by-the-numbers comedy. 

But Franklin and Becca’s (or rather, Chuck’s) situation is one that goes beyond texting. As Chuck’s catfishing spirals out of control and Franklin seeks more contact with ‘Becca’, things get remarkably more awkward and incredibly uncomfortable. Depending on your taste in comedy, I Love My Dad may occasionally take things too far and into the realm of bad taste, but in doing so it displays just how much Chuck cares for Franklin.

There may be some unpleasant moments, but you can’t fault Oswalt’s performance, which is really the emotional core of the film. One moment he’s a man who’s dying inside at the prospect of sexting his son, the next he reveals his frustration as a deeply lonely dad who longs to connect with his son and fix past mistakes.

Despite the oddness of the premise, it’s a down to earth performance that allows for some genuine emotion to be conveyed. The genius of Oswalt’s acting is that, despite his ridiculous and morally questionable actions, it’s hard not to sympathise with Chuck on some level.

Morosini, Oswalt and Sulewski are supported by some excellent turns from Lil Rel Howery and Rachel Dratch (who play Chuck’s co-worker and girlfriend, respectively). Howery in particular has some hilarious line deliveries and plenty of facial expressions ranging from shocked, to exasperated, to completely disgusted. He’s pretty much portraying how we’re feeling as we watch Chuck’s car crash of a plan play out.

I Love My Dad may be built on cringe-inducing comedy and making the audience uncomfortable, but the performances of Oswalt and Morosini are a grounding force that add some unexpected and much-needed depth to the tale. This is much more than your typical catfishing story. And there’s a sentence to end on.

I Love My Dad is available on digital download from 23rd January.

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