What are you willing to do to make it? Will it be worth it if you do? These are two of the questions at the heart of Sugar Daddy. The story follows Darren (writer and star Kelly McCormack), a young woman who moved to the city to work on her music. She has multiple part-time jobs, none of which pay enough on their own for her to survive, and all of which don’t allow enough free time for her to work on said music until she stumbles into a website where older men pay young women to go on dates with them.
McCormack has crafted an intriguing story here, and one that even when it ends up in the place you expect doesn’t necessarily take the route you expect to get there. Darren isn’t always likeable, but you never stop rooting for her throughout the story. Her interactions with her family, friends, and clients are all interesting, and you will find yourself wondering with which group she actually presents her real self. This isn’t a function of her creating facades so much as it is her not knowing the answer herself.
Her most honest interaction is with one of her clients, Gordon –played by Canadian national treasure Colm Feore– a rich older man with whom she is immediately honest about her life. Feore is excellent in the role, too, finding nuance and depth in a character that could easily have been one-note in a lesser actor’s hands (and he’s nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for this performance, too).
Sugar Daddy isn’t the easiest film to watch, but it never stops being interesting and engrossing, and that is down to McCormack. Not only is her script sharp, but her performance is also exceptional. It’s an excellent thing to see an actor give 100% of themselves to a role. That is what McCormack is doing here; she goes to uncomfortable places in the story and ambiguous and experimental ones in the visuals. Are some of those visuals straight out of a 90s music video? Sure, but they’re never not interesting as McCormack has a dynamic screen presence that lends itself to exactly this kind of storytelling, and director Wendy Morgan capitalizes on it.
In the end, you will have answers to some of the questions that this film asks, but not necessarily the answers you want, but that might be the point too: none of these questions are easy ones, but all are worth answering honestly. That, plus the two central performances, add up to this being one of the best indie films of the year.
Sugar Daddy is out on demand now.