The 2021 Netflix film “Fatherhood” directed by Paul Weitz, starring Kevin Hart in the lead role was astutely released on ‘Father’s Day’. The movie is about a widower raising his newborn, while the whole world doubts him. However, it goes a little beyond just being a movie about a single dad bumbling through parenthood.
Kevin Hart plays new dad Matt, who loses his wife just hours after delivery. The story is pretty straightforward and most of the conflict in the plot is right at the beginning – a heartbroken grieving Matt, with family and friends who think he cannot take care of the baby. The maternal grandmother wants him to move back to their home-town so she can help, but the new dad resolves to stay put in the big city and do all he can to raise his child. And he does just that, even if it’s exhausting beyond his wildest dreams. So you have a once ‘immature’ black dude do some serious growing up, clean up shit (literally), work from home and be the mom his daughter couldn’t have.
Hart really puts all his heart into the role and child-actor Melody Hurd is adorable as his feisty little daughter Maddy, who loves playing poker and coffee-flavored ice-creams. The cinematography is simple and clean. It’s really the central protagonists, the sweet little father-daughter moments that keep the viewers invested in this tale. The film is based on the real life story of a NYT bestselling memoir by Matthew Longelin, who lost his wife within 27 hours of delivering their daughter. While the book is supposedly more emotional and poignant, the film adaptation is a drama-comedy of sorts, making it more entertaining.
What really makes “Fatherhood” stand-out is how it indirectly sheds spotlight on the fact that most of responsibility attached to parenthood is imposed on women; it’s the moms who are expected to be taking on majority of the care-giving, while it really should be a 50:50 job between a couple. And even though that has been slowly changing in the last few decades, men still are considered ‘incapable’ of bringing up a child by themselves. There’s a dialogue in the film where Matt asks his boss what is it that men don’t have to be considered adequate for the job (of raising a baby), to which he is told – patience, emotional vulnerability and breasts. “Some men have breasts” Matt responds, almost seriously; and while it’s meant for laughs, that’s really the only thing men don’t have to provide for a newborn – breast milk. And considering how a lot of new moms choose formula these days, there is really no reason why a man should be ill-equipped to play the role of a complete parent by himself.
Paul Weitz and Kevin Hart bust some stereotypes in the film and don’t succumb to “irresponsible dad” gags to get laughs out of the viewers. So we get an earnest portrayal of a single father struggling to balance work and parent duties, while dealing with mother-in-law issues and a bunch of weird friends. He almost gets fired – a reality a lot of new moms face around the world – but manages to pull through. The climax was predictable, but I really don’t have any complaints with it, because it’s believable and simple. The lack of any dramatic conflicts might make it a little bland for some. But for some of us, “Fatherhood” is a light-hearted ode to single parents doing all they can to give their kid the best life.
It’s a 7/10 from me.
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