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Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners

Updated May 17, 2011

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.

Being Flynn
Beginners (2011)
The Kid (1921)
The Champ (1931)
I Was Born But... (1932)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Rebel without a Cause (1955)
Bigger Than Life (1956)
The Godfather (1972)
The Great Santini (1979)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
At Close Range (1986)
A Bronx Tale (1993)
In the Name of the Father (1994)
The Sum of Us (1994)
Billy Elliot (2000)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Finding Nemo (2003)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Being Flynn

Being Flynn

While the title BEING FLYNN hints at the singular conflict of owning up to who you are, it actually speaks about two people – the father Jonathan Flynn (played by Robert De Niro) and his son, Nick (played by Paul Dano). In some ways, the title is as much a question as an assertion, asking us how much a son will become his father, how much he will become his own person. This particular father/son drama was first recounted in Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Nick Flynn’s memoir about encountering his father – who’d abandoned his family years before – at a homeless shelter in Boston in the 80s. Years later, writer/director Paul Weitz adapted this story into the feature film BEING FLYNN. For Weitz, “This idea of the disparity between a powerful father figure and how you see them functioning in the world is, I think, central to a lot of people’s lives.” Indeed the father/son conflict has been a powerful narrative in everything from Greek tragedy and Shakespeare's plays through to modern novels and films. But, as BEING FLYNN so lucidly explores, the relationship between a father and son can be profoundly complicated, moving from anger and revolt to acceptance and forgiveness. In the following slideshow, we look at the rich tradition of fathers/son stories in films, from comedies to dramas, from epic tales of power to small portraits of domestic tranquility.