Cinema has given us a variety of father figures: protective; overprotective; negligent; absent; loving; and at times disappointing, at others, disappointed. What remains consistent is the fact that they are all flawed in their own ways, just as IRL. We hero-worship them when we’re children, only to learn to see them as all too human in our adulthood. There is no crash-course in being a father, therefore it is important to remember that they all try to be just good enough for their kids, if not the best, as they learn to get better at it with each passing day. This Father’s Day, #DSSCRecommends 10 movies on fatherhood that you can enjoy with your old man.
Whilst parental bonds are central to most animated films, no film does it better than Pixar’s undersea adventure Finding Nemo. The story follows Marlin, a clownfish whose overprotective nature toward his son Nemo drives the latter to act out, leading to his kidnapping. Tasked with the challenge to rescue his son, Marlin must overcome his fear of the world outside and learn to let his son be. The film’s gags and colours work for the kids, but the message is certainly for the parents.
Amitabh Bachchan stars as an ageing, constipated widower and Deepika Padukone as his long-suffering daughter in this comedy about all things scatological. Bhaskor’s health and hypochondria govern not only his daily routine, but also his daughter’s romantic life. He would rather his daughter stay single and look after him than have a husband. A road-trip with a potential lover follows that reveals how constipation here serves as a metaphor for life: the inability to let go and live free.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Noah Baumbach’s Cannes outing sees Dustin Hoffman as a sculptor who didn’t quite get his due in the art world. Now in his twilight years, his sons and daughter gather to celebrate a retrospective of his career. What follows are bittersweet squabbles and sibling rivalries, all rooted in Papa Meyerowitz’s flawed, biased parenting. The film ultimately highlights the power of love and forgiveness, whether or not your father pays you enough attention.
To Kill A Mockingbird
As father figures go, Atticus Finch is almost perfect, catapulting this adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel to the frontier of American cinema on the subject of fatherhood. Finch is a principled, eloquent lawyer who champions the downtrodden, and a loving father who never talks down to his children, even as he tries to shield them from the harsh realities of the racially segregated American South. Gregory Peck immortalised the character with his Oscar-winning performance.
Father of the Bride
The original, Oscar-nominated 1950 version of the film is effortlessly charming whose legacy is somewhat tainted by the remake. Spencer Tracy stars as the father whose suburban life is disrupted when his daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) announces her engagement. The focus remains tightly on Tracy’s character who, despite his hilarious, often farcical circumstances, finds pathos and tragedy in the paternal figure as he learns an important lesson in letting go and adapting to change.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Wes Anderson’s oeuvre runs with father figures and their proxies. Here, Steve Zissou is initially charmed by the idea of reuniting with his long-lost son, Kingsley, but he soon finds himself at sea regarding his responsibilities, expectations, and fatherly behaviour, which is at odds with his selfish nature. Although The Royal Tenenbaums is counted as one of the finest about dysfunctional families, it is Life Aquatic that tackles fatherhood head-on.
“I will find you, and I will kill you.” If that doesn’t spell ‘My Daddy’s Strongest’, then what does? Liam Neeson stars as an ex-CIA agent who sets out on a vengeful rescue mission from the US to Europe after his daughter gets abducted by sex traffickers. Undeniably fun with kickass action sequences, the seemingly simplistic premise has a profound anxiety at its centre — that of trying to save your child from the worst possible danger. Another moral: don’t lie to your dad about Euro tours.
Life is Beautiful
The latter half of Roberto Benigni’s Oscar winner dwells on Guido’s relationship with his son Joshua, after the first half establishes his love story and comedic skills. Banished to Jewish concentration camps, Guido has only one weapon at his disposal to make life bearable for his son — his humour. The film is a poignant tale of how, in the face of life threatening situations, a father shields his child with all that he has. This one will certainly have your old man smiling through tears.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
“Luke, I am your father.” The cultural significance of this father of all film secrets is hard to undermine; it is not for nothing that The Empire Strikes Back is considered the best in the franchise. Luke Skywalker’s dilemma between the two facets of his father’s persona — Ananis Skywalker and Darth Vader, between family and duty — is a classic one, but it remains one of the finest examples of how “like father, like son” may not always be true.
After his wife’s death, Hal comes out as gay to his son Oliver, and falls in love with a younger man, explaining that he doesn’t just want to be theoretically gay. His honesty about his identity inspires Oliver to take a chance in his own love life and pursue a French actress. The film focuses on how fathers can leave a positive legacy by being honest. Unlike the homophobia and toxic masculinity of American Beauty, here we see two men bonding over their desires without any fear of judgement.
Honourable mentions: Bicycle Thieves; There Will Be Blood; The Royal Tenenbaums; The Pursuit of Happyness; Tree of Life.
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