TIFF 2023: Daddio is a Love Letter to NYC and Human Connection

6 October 2023 / by Nicole. Soroka
Daddio Tiff 2023
TIFF 2023: Daddio is a Love Letter to NYC and Human Connection
This taxi ride drama brings together an unlikely pair after a series of difficult conversations create an incomparable bond

The iconic drive from JFK Airport to Hell’s Kitchen is one New Yorkers know like the back of their hand, but it’s not every day a taxi driver picks up a passenger who leaves an impact on them that will last a lifetime. 


Daddio is the feature directorial debut of Christy Hall. The film stars Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn, highlighting its uniqueness as a solely two-character-based film. Daddio was filmed over the course of a 16-day shooting period in New York City and Hoboken, New Jersey. 


Hall told TIFF audiences that she had a difficult time deciding how they would shoot the taxi scenes with Johnson and Penn, which make up most of the film. She wants the movie to feel authentic to New Yorkers and shot in a way in which the actors can interact with their surroundings. After discussing the possibilities of green screen and filming on real roadways, Hall and the production crew landed on StageCraft. This production technology, which was first created for The Mandalorian, uses LED screens to create lifelike, engaging sets. 


Daddio had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival this past September, while it was also featured at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film has received a 90 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


The film follows the cab ride of a young female passenger from JFK Airport to her home in Hell’s Kitchen, driven by an outgoing, opinionated older man. Through bouts of traffic, the pair engage in thought-provoking conversations about significant moments in their lives, the people they have had relationships with and the ways in which individuals interact with each other in society. In an attempt to one-up each other, the two let each other into emotionally raw parts of their lives and create an unbreakable bond along the way. 


Daddio far exceeds expectations in countless ways. With only two characters in the entire film, the dialogue between the pair is engaging and emotional enough to keep audiences’ attention for the entirety of the story. One notable element from the film is the costume designs for Johnson and Penn. Since the film takes place over a single night, there are zero outfit changes. While Hall spoke to TIFF audiences about the challenging process of choosing outfits that accurately represented her two characters, the outcome is phenomenal. From Johnson’s nail design to Penn’s own shoes from home, it is easy to establish how their clothing choices align with the personalities of their characters. Additionally, the cinematography is beautiful, with StageCraft accomplishing the production crew’s goal of properly depicting the streets of New York. The scenes in which you can see the surroundings outside of the cab appear to be lively and feel as though the audience is in the cab with the characters.


The story itself is a masterpiece of beautifully written stories and witty, dark humour. It truly brings to life what it means to make real, honest connections with an individual that you may never cross paths with again. It is clear that the characters have lived, and currently live, difficult lives that require a sound mind to navigate. Johnson and Penn have an effortless chemistry, one that is not of the romantic type, but gives off a sense that they have known each other for an entire lifetime. Their connection is real, which makes their characters, who are perfect strangers, connect on a realistically deep and emotional level. The story is written in a way that these two individuals seemingly have nothing in common on the surface, but once they make an effort to talk about the parts of their lives that they otherwise shut inside of themselves, they suddenly have a world in common. 


Johnson’s character speaks on subject matters that may be difficult for some to hear. Her performance is captivating, bringing to life the struggles of a young woman who is trying to navigate relationships, family drama and the harsh realities of life. Penn stands out for his brilliant take on a know-it-all taxi driver. His performance proves how intelligent his acting abilities are, having the ability to show how his character is feeling through the look in his eyes, without saying a word. While his character enjoys pushing buttons to get the information he is seeking, he does so in a humorous, interest-sparking manner. Penn’s character could read Johnson’s character in a matter of seconds, knowing when she wants to be left alone while also knowing when she needs a distraction from the life hiding within her phone. 


This story is nothing less than captivating, reminding audiences what it means to take a break from our screens and connect with the human beings that are right in front of us. Hall delivers a stunning film, one that individuals will hopefully connect with in a meaningful way. 


Keep an eye out for an official public release date for Daddio.