Sean Penn & Dakota Johnson Get Surprisingly Intimate In The Longest Taxi Ride Ever


  • Dive into the unexpected connection between Girlie and Clark in the confined setting of a taxi cab.
  • Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn’s stellar performances infuse life into Daddio‘s seemingly static premise.
  • The film nicely explores the dynamic and compelling nature of the relationship between Girlie and Clark.

As a New Yorker, I’m well-acquainted with long taxi rides across the city. I prefer to take these trips in silence, looking out the window at the passing buildings and bright lights while consumed with my own thoughts. However, Daddio makes a strong case for abandoning this solitary approach and opening oneself up to a unique connection, even if the dynamic that unfolds within it occasionally strays into something more complicated and uncomfortable.

The premise of writer-director Christy Hall’s movie is simple: A woman strikes up a conversation with her taxi driver on her way home from the airport. That’s a succinct summary of what happens during Daddio‘s runtime, but it doesn’t quite cover the full breadth of how these two characters connect and what topics they cover. The sparse set-up — the whole movie essentially takes place within the confines of the car — might put off some viewers looking for a less stationary tale, but as a character study, Daddio hits all the right beats.

Daddio’s Characters Are More Than They Seem

They break the bounds of their archetypes

Known only as Girlie (Dakota Johnson), the woman gets a cab from JFK and settles in for the long ride to Midtown. It’s clear right away that she has something on her mind. Her eyes keep drifting to her phone, which she picks up intermittently to find increasingly provocative texts from someone known only as “L”. Girlie’s driver, the worldly and outspoken Clark (Sean Penn), starts talking to her and, rather than brushing him off with dismissive answers, she plays along.

Their relationship is hard to define, swinging between platonic and possibly romantic, but that only makes Daddio a more compelling watch.

With their conversation at times bordering on flirting, Girlie and Clark start out on simple ground by discussing people’s reliance on their cell phones before evolving into something much more personal. Spurred by the fact that they won’t ever see each other again after the ride is over, they gradually reveal bits of themselves to each other — Clark’s been married a few times, Girlie’s mysterious “L” is actually her married lover — to the point where nothing seems to be off limits.

On some level, Daddio feels unrealistic. Girlie and Clark’s relationship goes from distant to surprisingly intimate in what is really very little time. Coming at this as a woman, I was surprised that Girlie wasn’t more put-off by Clark’s forward and occasionally raunchy questioning. I soon came to realize that it’s a key part of this character Hall has created; neither Girlie nor Clark are the archetypes they seem to be, and the former’s life experiences have made her the perfect companion for the latter. Their relationship is hard to define, swinging between platonic and possibly romantic, but that only makes Daddio a more compelling watch.


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Dakota Johnson & Sean Penn Breathe Life Into Daddio’s Static Premise

Sean Penn looking back at Dakota Johnson sitting in the backseat of his taxi in Daddio

A movie like this wouldn’t work without strong performers, and Johnson and Penn make for an intriguing onscreen pair. With very little space to move, both actors must convey their characters through small gestures and glances. Girlie is clearly carrying a lot on her shoulders, and Johnson reveals so much through the way she sighs at the latest text from “L” or how she smirks at Clark’s questioning. Penn exudes surprising warmth and sweetness in his performance, adding layers to a character who could come off as creepy.

Johnson and Penn’s chemistry makes it easy to invest in the conversation their characters are having. Clark is frank in his opinions about love and his assessment of Girlie’s affair, and it leads to some fascinating debates between them. Daddio‘s single location and dialogue-heavy movie approach occasionally make it feel static, particularly when the cab is stuck in traffic for long stretches. Luckily, Johnson and Penn’s compelling dynamic keeps us hanging on, right up until the moment they part. That final beat could’ve been shorter to make more of an impact, but that doesn’t lessen the satisfaction of the journey overall.

Daddio releases in theaters on Friday, June 28. It is 99 minutes long and rated R for language throughout, sexual material, and brief graphic nudity.

Daddio Movie Poster Showing Dakota Johnson in a Square Optical Illusion

As the sharp, astute Girlie and the complex Clark navigate the very human connection between passenger and driver in the world’s biggest city, they locate a common ground that helps each of them see the other’s point of view — bringing them both closer to figuring out themselves.


  • Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn deliver strong performances
  • The relationship between Girlie and Clark is dynamic and compelling

  • The one location setting can become static

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