- Hannah Marks
- Run Time
- 1 hour and 49 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Hannah Marks (director) and Vera Herbert’s (writer) film is a road trip film—not a buddy one but a father and daughter tale. Teenage daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) narrates the proceedings, warning us well before a single mile is added to their car’s odometer, “You’re not gonna like the way this story ends, but I think you’re gonna like the story.” By the time the end credits roll, her prediction proved true for me, though numerous critics have carped at the sudden plot twist.
The title refers to the almost 16-year-old Wally’s (Mia Isaac) response to her father Max Park’s (John Cho) request that she accompany him on the trip from California to New Orleans where the 20th anniversary of his college class will take place. What teenager would want to take part in such a boring event?
But Max is insistent. What Wally does not know yet is that her father has been told by his oncologist that his severe headaches are caused by a malignant brain tumor, and that the chances of an operation being successful are just 20%. Max, ever since the days when he gave up the chance to become a rock star, has been overly cautious. He has about a year left to live, so he decides it would be better if he took Wally to meet the mother she has never met, the woman having walked out on them to go with his best friend while their daughter was an infant. He can only think of her future, not his.
Wally reluctantly agrees to the trip when Max keeps pleading, wearing her down by sweetening the deal with the promise that he will teach her to drive along the way. And thus the two set forth, but along the way his tight control of her upsets Wally. She even sneaks out of their motel one night to join some local boys in a drinking bout. No sex, but plenty of alcohol, resulting in her and one boy falling asleep together atop a grain bin. Of course, Max is upset and almost panicky when he does not find his daughter in the morning, and when he does catch up with the pair, she is upset when he assumes she must have engaged in sex.
There are other missteps along the way, such as Wally’s erratic driving and a minor rear-end bump. But there are numerous tender moments too, such as in a Karaoke scene, with both father and daughter growing a little in maturity as the trip progresses. The lie that Max has based the trip on is at last exposed, and the introduction of Wally to her mother is stark. And then comes the twist, which I am thinking is more upsetting because it mars an otherwise happy ending. To me it underlines the truth of James’ warning to his readers—life is unpredictable, “you do not even know what tomorrow will bring.”
Although a family would do well to watch and talk about the film with their teenagers, its R-rating will make it difficult for a religious youth group to explore together the ties that bind a father and daughter. There is promiscuous sex, binge drinking and partying, even a nude beach scene, so it is understandable that some parents might object. Too bad, because the film is a delightful celebration of the father-daughter relationship, and a revelation of the good effect that a child can have on a parent.
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