Fatherhood Movie Review: Heart over art
This Kevin Hart-starrer tells an endearing story with the right measure of wit
Few films tend to question the need for an objective gaze while evaluating them. Does studying mise-en-scène or framing enrich the experience when all you remember is how warm and cosy the film made you by the time the screen cut to black? Fatherhood is one such film. Led by an affable Kevin Hart, in his most mellowed performance as Matthew ‘Matt’ Logelin, every character in this equally loveable film exudes warmth. Be it the ever-reliable Lil Rel Howery as Matt’s friend, Jordan, Deborah Ayorinde’s Liz, or even a minor character like Matt’s boss, Howard, played by Paul Reiser, they come across as warm-hearted humans we wish we had by our shoulder.
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Cast: Kevin Hart, Alfre Woodard, Frankie R. Faison, Lil Rel Howery, DeWanda Wise
Streaming on: Netflix
The film effortlessly transports us into an optimistic world suffused with amiable humans, although the story originates from a rather dark inciting incident—death; it beautifully dichotomises tragedy and happiness.
Based on Matt Logeline’s memoir Two Kisses For Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love, Fatherhood begins at a funeral. Matt’s world is burnt to the ground when his wife passes away shortly after giving birth to their daughter, Maddy. The death scene, although we foresee it coming from a mile, is a solid tear-jerking moment. There’s something uncomfortable about actors best-known for comic roles donning dramatic parts. Be it Mark Duplass as the cancer-stricken Michael in Paddleton, Robin William’s iconic therapist-turn in Good Will Hunting, Ricky Gervais’ grieving Tony in Afer Life, or our very own Sanjay Mishra in Kadvi Hawa, their comic background complements the contrasting emotional gravity of the performances. In a similar vein, watching the generally loud Hart break into tears comes across as more profound than, say, watching a rather serious actor perform the same scene.
Make no mistake, this Paul Weitz directorial is no sobfest; neither is it a philosophy-heavy examination of grief. Howery brings down the roof with his dead-pan delivery in every scene he is in, and the travails of the single dad coupled with Hart's comic abilities are put to hilarious upshots.
Matt, struggling to single-handedly run errands for the toddler, finally manages to keep up with the doctor’s appointment for the daughter’s health check-up. After the doctor assures him about Maddy’s healthy growth rate, Matt’s mother-in-law affirms, “Today was a good day for you as a parent. You keep all these little victories in a little box inside you. These will be your most prized possessions.” The film is all about such little, heartfelt moments. Take the scene where Matt’s mother ties his shoes as he aimlessly lays on the bed during his wife’s funeral service, the day Matt and Maddy spend together at an amusement part, or Matt recollecting the day Maddy took her first steps, the film is replete with moments as sweet as candy. Moreover, not once does it convey the impression of playing sugary charades. It's a story that's innately imbued with tenderness.
Fatherhood might not have the most hypnotic colour scheme or writing that propagates hidden layers, but it has a heart the size of a mountain. At times, a film as comforting as a warm blanket is all we need on a freezing monsoon night.