Seconds after becoming a first-time dad and barely afforded time to share the joy of being a new parent, Matt’s wife dies and thrusts him into fatherhood alone.
Fatherhood at its heart is a hero’s journey. A hero’s journey, where our choices give us, or not, the get-out-of-bed-courage needed when floored by unforeseen tragedy because a child’s life, our child’s life, depends upon us.
Matt (Kevin Hart) is unable to accept the paralysis of grief and, fuelled by the survival needs of his infant daughter, must make profound and heartfelt choices, good or not, to enable his daughter to thrive. Hart injects vulnerable realism with cathartic humour, bridging the tragedy of his reality. It would be easy for Hart, a global standup comic success, to ham up opportunities to offer shocking humour for cathartic release, but in Fatherhood, Hart’s comedy is warm and restrained.
As a single parent, Matt isn’t packaged with the heroic or sexy luxury of a well-meaning lack of courage. Instead, his single parenting curve is compounded by his lack of parenting knowledge, a time demanding profession which he loves, his mother-in-law’s anointed expertise in raising children, hostile mother’s groups’, and two ill-equipped best friends with six-packs of beer for parental advice.
Hart’s baby-brain-fog comic timing is undeniable, and his single dad relationship with his on-screen daughter, Maddie, played by Melody Hurd, will move him to the top of every kid’s Santa wish, especially the naughty ones. Likewise, mother-in-law Marian, played by Alfre Woodard’s raised eyebrows, are locked and loaded in each scene she shares with Hart. As the mother-in-law, Woodard is a classic – her guilt manipulations keep the scenes unpredictable, explosive, and hilarious.
Through the art of film, director Paul Weitz poses the “what if?” possibility of tragedy in ordinary lives and the power of life continuing, regardless of grief.
Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, is attached to this Netflix film.