Review: A Grown Daughter Searches for Her Father, Who Searches for Aliens, in Acidman

If you’ve ever thought a film about an older man desperately trying to make contact with alien life forms should be a metaphor for his daughter’s attempt to make contact with her long-last dad...yeah, me neither. Even still, Acidman is a sweet and simple story of Maggie (Dianna Agron, Shiva Baby) finally finding her father Lloyd (Thomas Haden Church), who lives alone in a mobile home in the sticks, cut off from most of humanity. She shows up at his door, and he barely registers that it’s an unusual event, taking her arrival in stride and immediately attempting to recruit her into his plans to contact alien crafts that he claims to see in the sky almost nightly.

She has come to him for answers, not only about him walking out of her life years earlier, but with questions about her own life, which includes a husband who has no idea where she’s gone. She initially comes at him head-on but soon discovers that being incorporated into his world is the best way to have a conversation with him. Lloyd is a brilliant engineer and has a workshop filled with equipment that we assume does what he says it can—pick up sound waves supposedly coming from outer space. But it becomes clear soon enough that there’s a bit of crazy mixed in with Lloyd’s sensible thought processes. Watching Maggie navigate these unpredictable waters is sometimes frustrating and tense, but occasionally rewarding as a character study of two people desperately seeking common ground on which to communicate.

I’d call this a perfect pandemic-era film, since it’s only two characters in either a single location or outdoors, but director/co-writer Alex Lehmann (Blue Jay, Paddleton, Meet Cute) mostly makes film with only two main characters, and he does so better than most. He finds ways to express intimacy or the search for intimacy that are moving and quite effective, and in Acidman that’s mostly the case, although Lloyd clearly could use some professional help, and it becomes frustrating that Maggie doesn’t at least suggest that. Still, I found myself getting pulled into these interactions, wondering how I would respond and talk to this man with a single-minded approach to life and goals that might seem outrageous but could be within the realm of possibility. As out of my sphere of understanding as some of the film might be, it still drew me in and made me care about these lost souls hoping to shore up their existence with help from one another.

The film is now playing in select theaters and available via VOD.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.