REVIEW: ‘Fatherhood’ Is an Emotional and Impactful Success

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Fatherhood

Fatherhood is a strange experience, and quite often, in entertainment, its representation within film and TV don’t always reflect characters in a positive or competent light. I can understand why; I myself was the product of an absent father, and I’ve heard similar stories from friends across the globe. However, the Netflix original film Fatherhood offers a positive, very real, extremely heartfelt, and candid look at what it’s like raising a child as a single father.

Fatherhood is directed by Paul Weitz, featuring a brilliant cast of Kevin Hart, Lil Rel Howery, Anthony Carrigan, Alfre Woodard, Frankie Faison, Paul Reiser, DeWanda Wise, and Melody Hurd. Matt (Hart) is recently widowed with a newborn baby. With his in-laws and his own Mother living out of state, his family and friends are worried about Matt’s ability to raise a child alone while also coping with the death of his wife. Fatherhood depicts a sincere interpretation of a single dad doing his very best to raise his daughter and live his life.

This film hits incredibly hard, with a metric ton of emotional impact. I’m still balancing the feelings I had after watching it just hours ago. The story gives a very sincere look at what it’s like to raise a child, but where it really succeeds is highlighting the full experience. The film captures Matt’s wins, losses, bad decisions, and just these small moments of joy he experiences with his daughter Maddie.

Early on, we see Matt struggle with diaper changes, swaddling, formula feeding, and the dreaded crib building experience. He wrestles with the car seat, the sleep deprivation, and the insecurities of being a competent father. To me, as a dad to three kids (and my first kids were twins), I felt all of this, and it was so relatable. Yet, Matt’s ability to be a parent isn’t depicted as one defining moment when it clicks, and it’s all glorious. No, it’s waking up every single day and doing what needs to be done.

What the film continues to hammer home, though, is that you don’t have to be perfect; you just have to try your best as a dad and turn up. You’re not always going to get it right—as Matt depicts during scenes when he’s covered in his daughter crap—it’s part and parcel of the role.

I was caught off guard, though, because this movie got me to care, and it wastes no time in doing that. From the opening five minutes, you jump from the funeral of Matt’s wife to the point when the couple first found out they were going into labor. Contrasting these moments sets the bar for the emotional stakes, truly defines the loss, and emphasizes the conflict at hand; raising a child alone while grief-stricken will be a mountain of a job.

In another instance that’s not much later, Matt takes his daughter to her first pediatrician visit. He is overcome with an urge to justify and apologize to the doctor about his daughter’s progression and explain he’s trying. What hit me most was the comment back from the doctor: “you’re doing a great job, and your wife would be so proud” while also comforting him that his daughter is healthy and looks happy. Raising a baby is excruciatingly difficult, but that moment of reassurance and the visible weight that’s lifted off Matt’s shoulders was such a tangible and impactful moment. Yet, there are so many more scenes just like this throughout the film.

This is hands down the best role I’ve ever seen Hart in. He understood the assignment and brought the character, and the story, to life with such compassion. Hart, who’s usually known for his more comedic roles, still brought humor to Matt’s character, but this had a subtly to it and felt far more nuanced than I’ve seen from him. As a dad, this Father’s Day weekend, I felt that positive representation on screen, and it meant the world to me.

Fatherhood also boasts some tremendous performances by the other cast members, such as the enigmatic Woodard, who plays Matt’s overbearing but well-meaning Mother-in-law. Wise, who plays a love interest for Matt, was so unbelievably charismatic, and her relationship as it builds with Maddy (Hurd) was infectious.

This is the perfect film for Father’s Day, but beware of its emotional impact! It holds no punches, and Hart’s exceptional delivery as a dad trying his best absolutely sticks the landing. Easily one of Hart’s best performances. The film highlights the many challenges of parenthood but will leave you with a sense of satisfaction and an urgent need to hug your kids and your parents.

Fatherhood is available now, exclusively on Netflix.

Fatherhood
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

This is the perfect film for Father’s Day, but beware of its emotional impact! It holds no punches, and Hart’s exceptional delivery as a dad trying his best absolutely sticks the landing. Easily one of Hart’s best performances. The film highlights the many challenges of parenthood but will leave you with a sense of satisfaction and an urgent need to hug your kids and your parents.