I love my dad. Time with him was action-packed. He’s a bit of a muscle man. He could carry tree logs with one arm, and would eat Green Berets for breakfast. Wow. And while lovely music played he would let me push ice-cream in his face. And we would feed a deer. He taught me martial arts movements, like throwing an elbow directly into an enemy’s esophagus. I remember when I was a kid and was captured by his old army buddies. I assume they were good once, when they were friends with my dad. But they turned bad. I was locked in a room in a house, quite a nice grand house actually. I tried to escape by breaking one of the wooden boards, and almost did get away on my own. Luckily, my dad turned up in the nick of time with all guns literally blazing. There were explosions, bodies flying through the air. He’d painted his face with boot polish too for whatever reason. He also met that woman from The Color Purple, and we all left on a plane that can land on water. Although he proved to be an amazing dad, what I will say is when he told Sully he would kill him last, he lied.
Here are 3 dads that are not as good as my dad:
Cyril’s dad in The Kid and a Bike is a coward, and has clearly deserted a kid that really need a father. The Dardennes are modern masters of social struggle, and they execute these plights without spectacle or grand effects. Their stories often speak for themselves. Watching little Cyril in The Kid and a Bike is often infuriating and frustrating – you want to grab hold of him and scream at him. But mostly, this troubled kid needs a cuddle, something to keep him occupied and out of trouble. Most of all he needs a parent who will love him and show him that every single day. His father here is in the process of abandoning him, and even when Cyril tracks him down, his dad still declares he cannot take care of him. Even asking that he never come back. He has a new life with a woman, and a job that keeps him busy, but that is never a good enough reason here to drop responsibility of your own child. Samantha, the woman who brought his bike back to Cyril, is more of a carer to him in those few days than we suspect his father ever was.
Where do you start with Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood? A hard-working, determined, ruthless man. Threateningly so. When a colleague dies, leaving a baby boy, Plainview takes ownership of the child, H.W., raising in his eyes a business partner and a cog in his family-themed business persona rather than a son. Though he does claim he is his own child. There’s little sign emotionally though that Plainview loves the boy like a son. Those signs (the reactions both to the oil accident that deafens H.W. and the boy’s return after Plainview abandons him) are huge in the context of Paul Thomas Anderson’s bleak portrayal of family. We see in Anderson’s early work, too, strong shadows of fatherhood looming over his narratives. Plainview is soon humiliated in front of the church (“I abandoned my child!”). And years later, devoured by greed and selfishness, shows he has learnt little about the true human bond when H.W. visits only to be ridiculed and told they are not blood ties, to which H.W. is grateful.
Okay, so Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl is cool as fuck in the excellent Kick-Ass. But without sounding like the Governor of the That’s Too Violent For Kids Board, that is not perhaps in the top 20 of any father’s intended role for their eleven year-old daughter. I mean, when we first meet them he is teaching her an element of his grand scheme to keep her safe and give her the skills to protect herself in a violent world. But he shoots her! No, she is not fatally injured, she is wearing the correct armoured apparel, but still. Her dad is Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) who has a troubled, tragic, brutal past, and a huge chip on his shoulder. His vengeance and vigilante crime-busting actions may be for the right reasons, and the deep love for a lost wife and growing daughter, but it all resorts to his eventual downfall. Hit-Girl’s awful loss, though, may be a swing around into a more grounded and safer future. We don’t know that yet. Big Daddy meant well as a father, but had this movie not come with a little tongue-in-cheek there would have been an uproar. He does kind of dress as Batman though, so there are clear signs of redemption.