miércoles, 26 de enero de 2011

The Year of the Father

This is not exaggerated. Spoilers are evil...

Sotigui Kouyaté in London River
Aaron Eckhart in Rabbit Hole
2010 has been a very fruitful year for the figure of the father. There are fathers separated from their children whether it is because of a bombing in London as the main character in London River, played by Sotigui Kouyaté, because said father is wanted for a crime he did not commit as Cobb in Inception, played by Leonardo DiCaprio or because of a car accident as Howie in Rabbit Hole, played by Aaron Eckhart. The first two parents don't have interactions with their children during the film but all their actions are directed to being reunited with them. Whether in the end they achieve that or not is not as relevant to this analysis as the fact that they pause their lives to be with their offspring again. In the case of Howie, his life is paused as well but because he has no hope, he has no goal. He won't be reunited with his child and he has to learn to live with that brick in his pocket.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception

Juan Diego Botto in Todo lo que tu quieras
 On the other hand, there are two fathers who are "forced" to be with their daughters. The character played by Juan Diego Botto in Todo lo que Tú Quieras has to be a dad and a mom after his wife's death. Literally. He has to dress up as her late wife to please his daughter. He faces his fears and world views out of love for his daughter.
Stephen Dorff in Somewhere
 Johnny Marco is a famous actor (played by Stephen Dorff in Somewhere) who spends a few weeks with his daughter. He probably was not a bad father, just an absent one. In this case it is not what he can do for her daughter but what she can do for him. He was lost in his incredibly comfortable life (So Sofia, right?) and the lovely Cleo finds him and balances him.

Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right
John C. Reilly in Cyrus
Other cinematic men never really thought of themselves as fathers and for one reason or another they need to reevaluate those beliefs. Mark Ruffalo's character in The Kids Are All Right donated sperm once upon a time and pretty much forgot about it. How can he be a parent when both of the seats in the parenting slot are taken? Is he a father in the first place? Blood (or sperm in this case) might mean nothing. But it works the other way around too. When John C. Reilly's character in Cyrus falls in love with the perfect woman (she is Marisa Tomei, of course she is perfect) he is not aware that a psychotic son is included in the pack. But he is. And in the end, even though there's no blood between them, a chance at being a family seems possible.
Richard Jenkins in Let Me In
Lambert Wilson in Des Hommes et des Dieux

Other fathers are just... not traditional. They can be classified according to their boss: God or the Devil... Well, Chloe Moretz is (very unfairly) hated in some blogs but even her more ardent detractors would not say she is the Devil, just a thirsty little vampire girl. And Richard Jenkins plays, in Let Me In (the surprisingly good remake of Swedish masterpiece Let the Right One In), her father figure. He provides for her and he goes to any length to protect her (not that she's meek and needs protection...) but it all maybe because of incestual reasons. On God's Corner we have Lambert Wilson's Christian (in Of Gods and Men) the spiritual father of a group of monks. As any other father he has to make decisions for his "children" even if they'll be mad. He has to take responsibility and keep his family together. Nevertheless he must be a cool dad because he allows music during dinner (or Swan Lake at least).

Miguel Gallardo in María Y Yo
And finally we have the perfect fathers. Miguel Gallardo does not play a perfect father. He is. María y Yo is one of the best documentaries of the year (and one of the best Spanish movies of the year for that matter...). In it we discover the relationship between Miguel and María, his autistic daughter. She may be sick but that won't stop Miguel from treating her as a healthy kid and as daddy's princess at the same time. It is wonderful to see their moments of complicity.

Another perfect father is Uxbal, the recently nominated for an Oscar performance by Javier Bardem. Let's say it up front: Biutiful is a terrible movie. And yet Javier's performance is masterful. His Uxbal is suffering from every possible angle. He has a drug addict brother, a bipolar wife, a gift to talk to the dead and on top of it cancer. But he also has two kids. And that is what he puts first every moment. He may not be a great help for his daughter's English homework but he cares about them very much. It was this film and a remark by Deivith that got me thinking in cinematic fathers. So it is proper that if he started it, he finishes it.
Javier Bardem in Biutiful

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