"Daddy Don't Go" Review

Film is a universal language, but before film was created, humans had love. It’s the original universal language. You automatically know it when you see it. When you combine the two, you can create a film like Daddy Don’t Go. It’s a movie that strives to address the urgent social issue of the link between fatherless homes, child poverty and incarceration, while saluting men who do their best to step up to the plate.

The film follows four fathers- Alex, Nelson, Roy and Omar- as they try to be present in their children’s lives despite certain socioeconomic hardships. Nelson is from the Bronx, and is a former Latin Kings gang member. He has a child with his girlfriend, Rebecca, and also serves as father to her other two children. Omar lives in the North Bronx and his severe learning disabilities affect his ability to find consistent work. The oldest of his three children, Milagros, is dealing with serious mental health issues that may stem genetically from Omar. Roy is an ex-con who lives with his parents in Long Island, raising his son amidst the on again off again presence of his son’s mother. Alex has sole custody of his 2-year-old son, Alex Jr. He’s trying to pass an automotive-training course to put himself in a position to earn more money, but a past assault charge has him in and out of court.

Producer/director Emily Abt takes viewers on an honest walk along in these four men’s shoes. It’s a fly on the wall look at these fathers in their situations with no handholding. When Roy can’t find work, we see what that means for him and his son. When Nelson loves Rebecca’s biological children like his own, we see what that looks like. When Alex goes to court, we see the judge come down on him (deservedly so) and how that affects him and his son. When Omar’s elementary aged daughter, Milagros, says “I want to kill myself”, we can’t help but feel distraught by the situation. Yet through all of it, we see each man’s love for his child(ren) rise to the occasion.

There in lies the beauty of this film. Even in spite of hardships, a father’s love can rise above it all. These fathers are in it to win with their children, and that is unmistakable. It can’t be denied, and it can’t be faked. Despite the difficulties, it’s a beautiful thing to see.

The editing and camerawork on this film is worth mentioning. While both categories have too many names to mention, their work is what helps the film soar. We slide in and out of each story smoothly, while never losing a sense of what’s happening. The camera always captures those moments that can only be displayed cinematically and told in cinematic language. Whether it’s a close up of handholding, or a mid-shot of an embrace; the film turns these everyday moments that we wish lasted a little longer into a wonderful, visual display of love.

Daddy Don’t Go will release nationwide this Father’s Day, June 19, 2016 on Vimeo. It’s certainly worth viewing! The statistics on the growing negative results of fatherless homes is alarming. The love generated from these men is certainly admirable!

Rating: B+

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.