When a pretty blonde (Dakota Johnson) in black Doc Martins gets into the back of a Yellow Cab at JFK airport, her chatty cab driver (Sean Penn) informs her she’s his final fare of the night.  ‘What do I win?’ she asks.  ‘Anything you want’ he replies, smiling, but she cannot possibly anticipate the life changing conversation she’s about to have over the course of the next hour and a half in “Daddio.”

Laura's Review: B+

Playwright and Netflix show runner Christy Hall makes her feature writing/directing debut with a script that made the top 3 of the 2017 Black List honoring the year’s best unproduced screenplays.  When she was far too young in Oklahoma, Hall watched ‘Taxicab Confessions’ and when she moved to New York City as an adult, her fascination with the relationship between cab driver and fare was cemented, leading to this very well acted two-hander.

The cabbie, who says that while he seems like a Vinnie, is actually named Clark (and later, informs he wishes were a Mikey), is immediately and disconcertingly free with his F bombs, but as we will see, he’s quite adept at sizing up his customers and sure enough, the young woman isn’t at all offended, letting a few slide herself as well.

Penn, who spends the first half of the movie communicating with Johnson via the cab’s rear view mirror first engages her by noting how refreshing it is that she isn’t staring at a phone (her hand rests on one, from which she’ll begin receiving a series of sexually aggressive texts from her lover), then assesses her as ‘someone who can take care of herself.’  She asks what makes him think this way and his sharp observations surprise her enough that the conversation not only continues, but turns into a game of sorts, where the most deeply held secrets revealed earn a point.  Things take an uncomfortable turn when Clark guesses her lover is a married man and gives her his cynical world view about men and sex (‘Never use the ‘L’ word’), but the outcome gives each a deeper understanding of themselves, the fare facing daddy issues while Clark realizes he may have made a mistake leaving his first wife, something mostly conveyed by the expression on Penn’s face.

Dakota Johnson plays things slightly cagily, encouraging Clark to continue his probe while initially being very careful with her answers, silences between the two filled by her fretful contemplations of just where she’s been and what she’s returning to.  Penn is a delight to watch as the ‘ain’t no Sherlock, just a guy who pays attention,’ his open, friendly demeanor becoming more serious and inwardly disturbed as the emotional stakes rise, becoming moved and protective of the young woman in his back seat.  These two actors make us believe an unforgettable connection can be made between two strangers who will never forget it even if they never meet again.

While the film takes place in real time, Hall stretches things by having them encounter a car accident which halts their journey for an almost unbelievable amount of time, the sense of reality further disturbed by a muting of exterior sights and sounds.  Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael ("Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny") shot the cab on a set surrounded by LED walls using previously filmed surroundings of the actual route Clark would have taken from JFK to his fare’s midtown Manhattan address, cut with exterior shots of the cab’s progress.  From inside the cab, the emphasis is on city light lens flaring.

“Daddio” features a conversation you’ll want to overhear, Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn calibrating their performances masterfully over the course of an hour and a half.

Robin's Review: B

A young woman (Dakota Johnson) hails a taxi at New York’s JFK. Her driver, Clark (Sean Penn), begins the ride with generic banter. But, when a massive traffic jam halts their journey, the two strangers open up to each other in “Daddio.”

I read one review of “Daddio” that described it as “My Dinner with Andre” in a taxi cab. That is a pretty good thumbnail description of the two-hander that pairs the veteran, Penn, with the relative (to him) newcomer Johnson. As I expected, Clark, with his life-lessons monologues, dominates most of the conversation.

Johnson, billed as Girlie, is heading home after a stressful visit with her estranged sister – there is a hidden real reason why. On the ride to Manhattan, she gets “sexts” from her married boyfriend and is absorbed in the texts. Soon, though, the talkative Clark engages her in conversation.

This is the meat of “Daddio” as the veteran cabbie bestows his long-developed philosophies of life and love on his captive audience. It is a pleasure to watch an actor like Sean Penn inhabit his character convincingly as he rambles on about life, love, marriage, sex and a bevy of other subjects as they wait for the traffic jam to clear.

Dakota Johnson does not get the chance to wax, philosophically, like her co-star, she holds her own opposite Penn. The two get to know each other during their journey together and I, too, felt like another passenger in the cab entertained by the banter. This is a chat fest of a film with no “action” but lots of intelligent dialog and philosophies of life.

“My Ride with Clark” gives us the opportunity to see the chemistry that grows between the two characters and I think I may have met Clark a time or two in the past.

Sony Picture Classics releases "Daddio" in theaters on 6/28/24.