Netflix’s recent digital-only release, Fatherhood, is a pleasant surprise. The film does an excellent job in nudging the audience into feeling the pain and joy felt by the lead character, played by Kevin Hart. However, the script falls flat in certain areas with unevenness in the overall pace of the film.
What’s it about:
Fatherhood had been in development since 2015 with Channing Tatum roped in to play the lead initially and Paul Weitz as director and co-writer of the film. In 2019, Kevin Hart replaced Tatum as the protagonist and the producer of the film. The film is in fact based on a memoir by Mathew Logelin, titled Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love.
For Kevin Hart, the role seems to have worked out well for the purpose of rebranding his image after the 2018 controversy surrounding his homophobic tweets from 2010 and 2011. Regardless of the ongoing debate about ‘cancel culture’, Kevin Hart deserves credit for his excellent and deeply moving performance in the film. His character has to endure the loss of his wife just a few hours after the birth of their daughter. The story is about a grieving father who navigates through the pain of losing his wife whilst raising a newborn as a single parent.
The casting choice and the performances by the cast are excellent. Kevin Hart has flexed his acting prowess for this role, showing the world that he is more than just a standup comedian. Alfre Woodard’s portrayal as the overbearing mother-in-law brought life to the screenplay in moments where it was much needed. The Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor dominated each scene she was in with ease and expertise. In fact, the scenes with Kevin Hart and Alfre Woodward were easily the best parts of the narrative. That is by no means a disservice to the other actors - all of their performances deserve praise and credit.
Director Paul Wietz is no stranger to movies about parenting and father figures. His British family drama, About a Boy, starring Hugh Grant and a young Nicholas Hoult, won hearts and a number of awards in 2002. Fatherhood does fall short in direct comparison with About a Boy, but still manages to tell a deeply emotional story about grief, loss and parenting.
The movie’s opening act was simply perfect, however, the middle and final acts were unable to match it. The slow pace of the narrative was to be expected after the first act, but the movie fails to keep you invested in the story about a single father raising his newborn daughter. The reason being that the movie jumps to a point in the story where both the father and daughter appear to be at peace. The only major obstacles they faced were what any parent or child would face - like work and school. The film also attempts to be more inclusive about gender non-conforming behaviour in children and adds to the overall narrative. While adding it as a subplot gives the film an added layer of thought-provoking detail, it however feels out of place and fails to be convincing.
The film does an excellent job in painting a tragic picture of a broken man as he attempts to overcome an impossible task of being a widower and a single parent. However, the film fails to maintain its consistency throughout the entirety of its runtime. The excellent performances by the cast carries the film to the finish line