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My Dead Dad screens as part of the SLOIFF 

In his feature length debut, Fabio Frey directs this coming-of-age story about Lucas Varela (Pedro Correa, who co-wrote the script with the director), an aimless young man who learns that his estranged father, Augusto (Ricardo Molina), has died, leaving him a Los Angeles apartment building. Thinking he'd simply sell it, Lucas instead finds himself growing up as his dad's friend and building superintendent, Frank (Raymond Cruz), teaches him about his father, as do the building's eclectic tenants. (93 min.)

click to enlarge SKATE BROS Old friends Lucas (Pedro Correa, left) and Kieffer (Booboo Stewart) reunite after Lucas returns to Los Angeles and an inherited apartment complex in My Dead Dad, screening as part of the SLOIFF feature length narrative competition. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NEVER NORM FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Never Norm Films
  • SKATE BROS Old friends Lucas (Pedro Correa, left) and Kieffer (Booboo Stewart) reunite after Lucas returns to Los Angeles and an inherited apartment complex in My Dead Dad, screening as part of the SLOIFF feature length narrative competition.

Glen Lucas is a burnout—angry, self-destructive, and going nowhere. His claim to fame was being part of a Reno, Nevada, skateboarding ring known for posting sick videos of dangerous skate stunts, but his skating days are behind him. When his mother, Jane (Terry Walters), tells him his dad has died, Lucas' reaction is little more than an angry shrug, but then he learns that dealing with his father's estate has fallen to him, so he travels to Los Angeles to handle what he's sure is a useless mess. He knows he's too irresponsible to deal with managing a building, and his Uncle Tommy (Steven Bauer) is eager to help him sell ... and collect a cut. Frank, the building superintendent, has other ideas, demanding that Lucas go around and introduce himself to the tenants even if he plans to sell the building and move on because, for now, they're his responsibility. So starts a learning process as Lucas gets to know his dad through those who interacted with him during their estrangement.

Anna Lucas is deeply bitter toward his dad, and abandonment issues abound with him. Yet when he arrives in LA, both Tommy and Frank talk about how much his dad loved and cared for him. Cue eye rolling and even more bitterness from Lucas, because if his dad did care, he certainly didn't tell Lucas about it. Lucas meets Sophie (Courtney Dietz), a building tenant who's charmingly flirtatious and a quirky distraction for Lucas as he tries to figure out what's next in life. He doesn't like Reno where he lived, but is LA really the answer or just another way to escape facing his own demons and growing up? He starts to fall for Sophie only to learn she isn't as available as it seemed, but nevertheless the two still road-trip to good old San Luis Obispo (mispronounced, of course) to check out another of his dad's properties, and they wind up complicating their relationship even more. I thought these two actors worked particularly well together. The film had me pretty invested in not just Lucas' story, but the fate of the tenants as well. He starts to care about them, and that complicates things.

Glen This is an indie film through and through, and it's an impressive feature-length debut for director Frey and feature-length writing debut for Correa, who's written 20 shorts. They manage to tap into a lot of deep emotional places, and you really care about these characters. Bauer, perhaps best known for playing Manny Ribera in Scarface (1983), is terrific as Uncle Tommy, who's all swagger masking a man on the brink of disaster. Cruz, a reliable character actor in dozens of popular films such as Under Siege, Clear and Present Danger, Alien: Resurrection, and Training Day, imbues Frank with a nobility found in those who realize they can be of service, which is exactly what he wants Lucas to realize. It's an effective coming-of-age story, as Lucas realizes authentic happiness comes from being responsible. One of the great things about the SLO Film Fest is having access to these really engaging films that we might otherwise never see. My Dead Dad is absolutely worth a trip to the theater.

Anna Exactly! This most likely would not have come across my radar if not for the SLO Film Fest, and I'm so glad it did! It was deftly shot, the soundtrack was moody and cool, and I totally got into the storyline. It's always great to see recognizable faces in these indie films, and Bauer and Cruz bring their seasoned know-how to these parts. Varela was a great lead as well. Lucas is a lot more than just a burnout ex-skateboarder with father issues, and his performance paints that more complex picture. He finds out that perhaps his perception of his father abandoning him isn't accurate, and that leads to the even more difficult truth that he didn't get to have any time with his dad before he passed. It's an emotional film and has a wonderful indie vibe. I absolutely recommend seeing this at the festival if you can. Δ

Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at [email protected].


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