Mike Mills poignant portrait of a father and son relationship inspired us to look back at how films from Chaplin to Beginners have handled this paternal subject.
The Godfather (1972)
Of all the many dramatic conflicts in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, one of the most interesting is the relationship between Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), the old school Mafia don, and Michael (Al Pacino), his youngest son. Michael initially absents himself from the family business, seeming “above” his father's world of organized crime; however, he is drawn in after corrupt cop McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) breaks his jaw. We then see the aloof, college-educated Michael––motivated by hurt pride, revenge and familial duty––transform into a cold-blooded killer, much to the distress of Vito, who wanted him to remain distanced from organized crime. While Vito believes in an increasingly antiquated code of honor among Mafiosi, when Michael takes over the family business, he not only modernizes operations but employs a heartless, ruthless approach that is totally antithetical to the way his father believed things should be done. There are interesting parallels between Vito and Michael and writer-director Coppola and his father, Carmine. When Francis showed an interest in the theater while at Hofstra University, Carmine voiced his disapproval. A musician and composer who had always lacked financial stability in his job, Carmine was against his son following in his footsteps by joining an artistic profession, and instead encouraged Francis to study engineering. Ultimately, however, Coppola's success as a filmmaker allowed Carmine to finally fulfill his own creative potential: Coppola hired him to write and conduct music for his films, and in 1975 Carmine won the Academy Award for Best Music (Original Dramatic Score) for The Godfather: Part II. Cradling his own Oscar and that of Nino Rota, his musical co-contributor on the film, Carmine beamed, “I don't mind holding a baton, but my arms are killing me holding two Oscars.” That night, his son won the Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture for The Godfather: Part II.