“Fatherhood” is a heartwarming and humorous film about a single dad doing his best to be a good parent to his daughter. Between the laughs, there are nuggets of wisdom about the parenting journey and the irreplaceable love and care of a father.
Recently on a flight — my first flight with my baby son — I was able to catch the 2021 comedy-drama Fatherhood, starring the irrepressible Kevin Hart of Jumanji fame. The film centres on single dad Matt Logelin, left alone with his baby daughter Maddy after Matt’s wife Liz unexpectedly dies following childbirth. It is based on a true story by the real Matt Logelin, published under the title Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love.
Matt’s mother-in-law Marion hovers around after Liz’s funeral, not trusting that Matt can actually look after her granddaughter. “What would I look like goin’ home before I know that you are capable of taking care of my newborn grandchild?” she asks.
Exasperated, Matt retorts: “How are you ever gonna know if you don’t let me do it?”
Community is Key
The story unfolds with Matt succeeding against all odds at being a single dad as well as the sole breadwinner. His buddies rally around to support him, despite their own lack of childrearing experience, and provide the friendship (and levity) that he needs to get through as he tackles cot-building, nappy-changing, and baby-soothing.
Unable to get the baby to sleep, Matt barges in on a parents’ group full of mothers and begs for advice. Armed with new pearls of wisdom (white noise!), Matt finally manages a good night’s sleep with the aid of the vacuum cleaner. He brings the baby to work, and along comes the vacuum too…
A work presentation turns topsy-turvy when the baby started wailing in the distance, but the clients, who happen to be parents as well, all chime in with their parenting tips. His boss Howard contemplates firing him: “This is a place of business, right? It’s not a place of babies.” Thankfully, Matt manages to keep his job and impress the clients.
Dads are Vital
In a vulnerable moment, Matt sighs, “You know Maddy, if you could have only one parent, I wish you could’ve had your mom.” Indeed, childrearing often comes more easily to mothers, and fathers can feel like a spare tyre at times, particularly during the early years — especially if the child is mainly breastfed.
However, research shows that the more hands-on a father is during his child’s infancy, the higher the child’s IQ and eventual chance of success in life.
Lacking a dad of his own, Matt turns to his father-in-law, Mike, for parenting advice. “Welcome to not knowing the right thing to do. That’s a dad speciality,” quips Mike. He is a friendly mentor for Mike, encouraging him through the tough times.
Marion turns up uninvited for the baby’s first medical appointment, which the child thankfully passes with flying colours. “Matthew, today was a good day for you as a parent. You keep all these little victories like you had today in a little box inside you. They’ll be your most prized possessions,” she tells him.
The movie depicts how Matt and Maddy develop as a father and a daughter, through her first years in school, navigating dress codes and dealing with bullies. They also have to adjust to new dynamics when Matt’s colleague introduces him to a lady to whom he takes a fancy.
Parenting is a challenging journey. At the same time, it is very rewarding and full of fun. Fatherhood portrays this wonderful mix of emotions and the personal growth of the main characters, with the single dad learning how to tend to his daughter’s needs and realising that, although his parents-in-law may be able to provide a good home for his daughter, they can’t quite replace him.
The film is full of poignant moments and well-timed hilarity. Available on Netflix, it makes for a good show for parents to laugh over together. Unfortunately, with several instances of swearing and some politically correct plot points (Maddy’s Catholic school is portrayed as archaic for insisting that all girls dress in the appropriate attire, and Matt makes some passing comments supporting transgender ideology), it is probably not advisable for younger children to watch.
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