I do not like this film and I have my reasons, the main of which is its subject: The State of the American Family. The subject is a prison for the imaginations of so many indie filmmakers. And I know who built this horrible prison and why so many indie filmmakers can't escape it—indeed, if they do escape it, they return to it, return to their cell, return to that little and suffocating world between mom and dad, a mom who is overprotective and a dad who is complicated, a mom who is a slut and a dad who is a criminal, a mom who is too present and a dad who is too absent. This cell did not come from nowhere; those in power built it for the sad purpose of encouraging conformity and maintaining control—a man or woman who is tied to a marriage, children, and a mortgage is not going to turn to radical politics for solutions to real social problems. And so in America we have an overemphasis on the importance of family and the individual. The first emphasis keeps Americans locked within a specific and innocuous political spectrum; the next emphasis obscures the fact that the source of social wealth is actually cooperation.
In Daddy Longlegs, we enter the severely limited world of a family in a state of crisis. The father in the story, Lenny (Ronald Bronstein), is essentially unlikable and gradually going insane. His sons love him to death and, until the very last moment, have no idea that he is losing his marbles. His ex-wife and present girlfriend are too stupid to see that their man needs serious help—their stupidity stems from the fact that they take all of his crazy behaviors personally (it's all about them and not him—all of this relates to the American inability to take mental illness seriously).
The result of all this ignorance and stupidity is yet another indie film about The State of the American Family. Sure, Daddy Longlegs is not so obviously reinforcing family values as the 1950s TV show Father Knows Best. But by throwing us into the middle of a family crisis (the very last place you want to be) and just leaving us there with nothing but the family in crisis, the directors (Josh and Benny Safdie) end at precisely the same place that gives Father Knows Best its legitimacy. How so? Because if there are no alternatives to the institution of the American family, we are left with this conclusion: If the father, Lenny, were more caring, less selfish, and not so nuts, then things—the institution of the family—would be fine and the boys happy. Father would know best.