Fathers’ day is here and as always peeps are falling over themselves trying to make it extra relevant like a certain Mothers’ day. No problem with that, at least the world cup is here and the best gift for fathers will be to just give them the remote and, more importantly, silence for the next month.
There aren’t a lot of great songs about fathers and listening to DJ’s make farfetched fatherhood links in songs on radio this week is just short of mirthful. However, cinema has done a lot better giving us countless memorable father portrayals. Here are some of my picks of the best dads in film.
This is probably my second favourite Fishburne performance behind the sagely Morpheus. He plays a dad in a neighbourhood where male role models are virtually non-existent and his son is frankly lucky to have him. The 90’s Fishburne always brings to mind his turn as Ike Turner and I’ll admit I feared for young Tre when he was dropped off by his mom. But we soon learn there is some depth to the man. Jason “Furious” Styles knows the real meaning of fatherhood; “Any fool with a dick can make a baby,” he astutely points out, “But only a real man can raise his children.” He protects his son whilst also teaching him to believe in himself. There is a clear distinction between Tre, who receives guidance from his father, and his friends who are caught up in the merry go round of drugs and violence.
I saw this adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel for the first time this year and Gregory Peck’s performance as a man who approaches life in a racially divided society with the childlike simplicity of his kids. He takes the moral high ground even when it leaves him largely outnumbered and in doing this he is setting the ultimate example for his two kids, Scout and Jen. He is a widower lawyer who defends a black man against a wrongful rape charge but it is through his time with his kids that we appreciate why what he does. There is a scene on the porch which sees him break down why he is defending the Negro to Jen, who by the way I thought was a boy for the first 10 or so minutes. He embodies true decency and integrity which rubs off on his kids and their actions. He truly is an endearing and admirable figure to all watching.
Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happiness
Will Smith earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as Chris Gardner, a father struggling to provide the best possible life for his son after losing everything and trying to start over. I haven’t seen this film in a while but there are precious few scenes that show Gardener without his young son. The film has fatherhood at its real bad for them and there’s that scene in the subway bathroom where Gardner is at his lowest but for me receives top marks as father. He desperately uses his foot to protect his son in the restroom that had become a forced overnight shelter. He has tears streaming down his cheeks at this point and all we can do is cry with him. The film does a great job of highlighting what pushes Gardner to make the most of his life. It’s not personal career ambitions or money, but the simple desire to see his son have a better life. This film radiates all do’s of paternal love.
Yes my next feature is a clownfish. Marlin, voiced by Albert Brooks in this Pixar animation, is a widower who becomes a fearfully defensive dad. His over-protective nature is informed by the devastating loss of his wife and all his babies, bar Nemo early on in the film. His smothering nature so irritates his little son that he swims away with some irreverent confidence and is captured by divers. What follows is Marlin’s death-defying attempts to find his son thousands of miles away. It’s an extremely epic and gruelling journey and the only thing that drives Marlin is his desire to see his son again.
John Q was screened many times on TV Africa back in the day and each time I was in awe of the lengths John Archibald would go just to see his son get the heart transplant he needs after he collapses during a Little League baseball game. John doesn’t have the insurance to save his son and following failed attempts to get help from the board he holds the hospital hostage, his only demand, to see his son live. It’s easy to get lost in the contrived narrative and the ethical issues his method perfect but you don’t need to be a perfect man to be a good father just like John Archibald shows.