‘Fatherhood’ Review: A Heartfelt Story About the Complexities of Being a Single Father 

“No matter where you are, that’s where I want to be”

Image via Netflix

Netflix’s Fatherhood opens with a solemn scene, showing Matt (Kevin Hart), who is lost for words at his wife’s funeral, Liz (Deborah Ayorinde). The intense and dreary opening that accompanied the gloomy atmosphere of Liz’s burial ceremony clearly hinted that Fatherhood will feature a lot of emotional moments. Based on Matt Longelin’s 2011 memoir, “Two Kisses For Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love” and directed by Paul Weitz (American Pie), Fatherhood is a story about the pain that comes with the loss of a loved one, coping with it, coupled with the challenges and joy of being a single parent.

The movie follows the life of frolicsome Matt, whose wife unexpectedly dies a few hours after giving birth to their first child, Maddy (Melody Hurd). With the absence of a mother for poor Maddy, the question of whether Matt is capable enough to raise a child alone arises. His mother-in-law, Marian (Alfre Woodard),  who has no faith in him, demands that Matt moves back to Minnesota, which is closer to her and a good option for Maddy’s upbringing. Matt declines the offer, but they strike a deal that Matt will have to move back to Minnesota if he finds it too hard to raise the child on his own. Consequently, Marian painfully reminds him that he should not be selfish but should only think of the child. But is Matt ready to change diapers, do midnight feedings, cope with the nonstop wailing of Maddy and most of all, is he ready to take on the role of a father and a mother to poor little Maddy?

Melody Hurd and Kevin Hart in Fatherhood. Image via Netflix

Paul Weitz presents a tear-jerking and heartbreaking story about a devastated man thrust into the harsh reality of  tending to a newborn whose very existence depends on him. When it comes to parenting, a child’s upbringing is the greatest challenge faced by both parents and it becomes even more challenging when it’s a single parent. However, the concept of just one figure in a child’s life when two might not even be enough to thoroughly care for a child is excruciating.

Weitz uses Matt, a single father who must bury his grief and shoulder the responsibility of bringing up his child alone. In reality, society has lower expectations for single fathers as they are regarded as incomplete figures in the home without the presence of a woman or a wife. In the movie, whenever Matt goes out with his daughter, people continuously ask for the child’s mother, an indirect way of implying that a mother is more suitable for whatever he is doing.

Kevin Hart tries to alter this widespread belief in this Netflix drama, but for most part of the movie, it almost seems to strongly portray that the presence of a woman in the home is a necessity even though Matt proved that a father can also do a good job of raising a child. Without the presence of a female role model, Maddy prefers playing poker to playing with dolls like other girls, and would rather wear ‘pants’ than skirts, which is an unusual choice of clothing for Maddy in her strict Catholic school. She doesn’t give in, even when she is constantly scolded by her teacher and bullied by her classmates. “Skirts make me feel like I forgot my pants”, she says to her father, and down-to-earth Matt finds amusing ways to evade the teacher’s question about his daughter wearing what she is comfortable with. I mean who cares about any ‘stinking rule’, I can’t even remember the last time I wore a skirt myself. 

Via Netflix.

Fatherhood closely captures the endless struggle of raising a child alone and a father’s effort to set aside his selfishness for his child’s happiness. Even though the movie loses the emotional intensity it originally started with, it still manages to strike the right chord in viewers when it matters. The remarkable acting and portrayal of a single dad by Kevin Hart alongside the young and lovable Melody Hurd makes the emotional drama relatable and poignant to watch. 

The 1hr 50min movie also delicately reveals that there are no clubs or groups to support single fathers on how to care for a baby. With the formation of single father groups, they won’t feel alone on the harrowing journey. Matt visits a New Parent Support Group when Maddy wouldn’t stop crying but the single parents he meets there, who are all women, look at him surprisingly like he had a broken map. 

Maybe, single fathers refrain from visiting these support groups because they do not want to be in the midst of women only. In other words, they might feel they are in the wrong place but, let’s face it, there are thousands of single fathers out there and these support groups will go a long way in easing their burden. Fatherhood is an uncluttered and invigorating drama that calls the attention of people to this aspect of parenting that is often neglected and overlooked— a sort of eye opener that single fathers also go through a lot of hardship when bringing up a child—and it does it in a very heartwarming manner.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Side Musings

  • The response Matt gives each stranger that asks of his wife whenever they see him with Maddy is amusing and at the same time doleful. One of the funny remarks to the question, “where is mom?” is “she is serving time in San Quentin” and “mom is an astronaut training at NASA”. 

Fatherhood is currently streaming on Netflix.

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