At some point in our lives, we come to learn that grief is not a linear human experience—and that it can reveal itself in surprising ways.
In My Dead Dad, an affecting indie feature film debut from filmmaker Fabio Frey, Lucas (Pedro Correa, Little Fires Everywhere), an aimless former skater from Reno, has learned his estranged father has passed away. His father’s unexpected parting gift: an apartment building to look after in Los Angeles.
Lucas intends to sell the building and wash his hands of the whole unwanted situation. After being strongly encouraged by the building’s groundskeeper/superintendent, Frank (Raymond Cruz, Breaking Bad), to go around and introduce himself to the tenants, Lucas is met with stories of his father. As he decides to take some time to weigh his options, he finds himself both confronted and conflicted by a version of his dad that he didn’t know.
Co-written by Frey and Correa, the film is currently on the festival circuit, with premieres at the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Woodstock Film Festival, and, most recently, the Austin Film Festival. In addition to Correa and Cruz, My Dead Dad features a small but impressive cast: Courtney Dietz (Beast Beast), Simon Rex (who’s currently racking up accolades for Red Rocket), Booboo Stewart (Julie and the Phantoms), Steven Bauer (Ray Donovan), and Chris Pontius (Jackass: The Movie).
The film primarily rests on Correa’s shoulders, and the actor puts forth a performance infused with nuanced emotion. Upon learning the cause of his father’s death, Lucas offers a mere “Nice”—a detached response that speaks volumes of their frayed relationship.
The heart of the film, no doubt, is found in Lucas’s interactions with Frank. The film carefully toes the line of not having Frank solely exist as a father figure for Lucas. Instead of fully leaning into a parental vibe, Frey and Correa gave these characters a commonality in the script to begin laying the groundwork for creating a connection between the two that feels authentic.
Through their conversations, we see Lucas’s shell of indifference slowly begin to crack as he grapples with processing the loss of his dad for a second time. These scenes allow Correa to navigate Lucas’s grief through moments of self-doubt and rash decision-making. As Frank, Cruz meets this energy via his character as a measured voice of reason—one that’s both supportive and doesn’t shy away from calling bs on his young friend.
Overall, My Dead Dad proves to be a solid outing for Frey as a first-time feature director. He took a story with an emotionally-charged premise and imbued it with depth and levity. Anchored by Correa’s admirable lead performance, the film serves as a reminder that it’s okay to feel your feelings when you’re going through it, and sometimes it helps to have someone there to help you make sense of it all—family or otherwise.