Many filmmakers, parents themselves, mine their own family histories to represent on screen that mysterious man about the house we call dad. Sometimes heroic, often comic, fathers on film strive to live up to the kids’ expectations, even as they grapple with their own identity.
This Father’s Day, after the gifts of aftershave and power ties have been unwrapped, why not follow up with some Focus classics that explore fatherhood? As part of Focus Features 15th anniversary year, we showcase five films that capture the profound emotions of love and care that fathers and children share.
Christopher Plummer is an Oscar-winning dad in Beginners.
In 2012, Christopher Plummer won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing Hal Fields––the father of Oliver (Ewan McGregor)––in writer/director Mike Mills’ Beginners. As Oliver grapples to understand his life, Hal is living his, coming out as a loud, proud gay man. Mills modeled the character of Hal after his own father, the acclaimed art museum director Paul Mills, who indeed announced he was gay at 75. “I couldn’t have made this film,” explains Mills, “if I didn’t feel like I was making it out of love...and real admiration for his coming out.”
Eric Bana prepares his daughter for danger in Hanna
In Joe Wright’s high-voltage action film Hanna, Eric Bana plays Erik, the ex-CIA operative father who is raising Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) deep in the arctic wilds. Bana prepares his daughter for the world to come by training her to become a world-class assassin. With two children of his own, Bana notes how his character is at “that point in our lives where we suddenly go, ‘Wow, the world can be a big, ugly place’.”
Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are epic dads in The Place Beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance’s crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines traces the legacies of two fathers—Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) and Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper)––in a small town in upstate New York. As the story moves from the dads to their sons––Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen)––the film provides an epic perspective on fate and fatherhood. For CianFrance, a father himself, the film’s themes were deeply personal. "Pines is about that passing of the fire––from my grandfather to my father to me to my son .”
Michael Stuhlbarg mirrors the Coen brothers’ own dad in A Serious Man
Michael Stuhlbarg was nominated for a Golden Globe for his endearing performance of Larry Gopnik, a physics professor and family man struggling to get by in the Coen brothers’ comedy A Serious Man. As his well-ordered life begins to fall apart––his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) is leaving him, his kids (played by Aaron Wolff and Jessica McManus) don’t understand him, and three different rabbis can’t give him any spiritual solace––Gopnik hilariously struggles to remain a serious man. While the film is not exactly autobiographical, Larry reflects the Coens' own father who taught economics at the University of Minnesota. “There's something strange, not in a bad way,” explains Ethan Coen, “about going back to where you grew up.”
Channing Tatum avenges his father’s honor in The Eagle.
Based on The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff’s beloved young adult novel of the Roman empire, Kevin Macdonald’s The Eagle stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell as sworn enemies who join forces to reclaim their destiny. Tatum plays Marcus Aquila , a Roman centurion whose father lost his command of the Ninth Legion and its eagle standard while attempting to conquer ancient Britain. Growing up with tales of his dad’s dishonor, Marcus dedicates his life to redeeming his father’s name by finding the lost eagle, a feat he can’t do without the help of a Celtic rebel played by Bell. Tatum immediately connected with the tale’s values of honor, honesty, and respect for family, which for him, “comes from my Mom and Dad. They don’t lie. If my Dad doesn’t like you, you will know.”