Fatherhood, starring Kevin Hart, playing slightly against type – is a good film; released on Netflix, it follows the story of Matthew Logelin, a man who very suddenly becomes a single parent in tragic circumstances; there are a number of sub-plots in the film as well, which work equally well, and the film rarely loses its narrative momentum or focus on Matthew Logelin’s journey, and though the film strongly follows Hart’s journey as a single partner, it is also at its core also a pleasing film about functional family and communities under stressful conditions. The incomparable Alfree Woodard plays Marian, Hart’s bereaved mother-in-law with brittle strength and vulnerability; there are echoes of the film ‘Three men and a baby’ – with Hart, the foil against Lil Rey Howery’s rude humour, and Anthony Carigan’s inadvertent socially inappropriate friend. Melody Hurd is likeable, and pugnacious as Hart’s daughter, and the cast of stars is completed by DeWanda Wise who is both a delight to watch on screen, but also brings a tender strength and honesty to the character of Lizzie/Swan. The film pleasingly side-steps the trope of awkward step-mother/daughter relationships, and gives us a satisfactory portrayal of a family being rebuilt following unavoidable tragedy; Kevin Hart successfully plays outside of the roles and types of characters he has formerly been known for, bringing to his role an openness, masculine tenderness and despair that is also gently undercut by his trademark humour, it is to be hoped that we see more of films like this; all in all, a gentle, heart-warming film that deserve to be enjoyed. Lil Rey Howery, of ‘Get Out’ fame – is funny, though at times gratingly so, but all in all this is a finely balanced cast.
It points subtly at the way the default role of nurturer is one that society remains invested in as a female role, and the limits of love; Paul Reiser gives a pleasing but not overly patronising performance as Hart’s fairly understanding white boss who also has some understanding of what it means to be an involved father, and Frankie Faison, a great character actor as Hart’s father-in-law is a welcome though underutilised character in this film.
The African American response to tragedy and the nurturing roles of grandmother’s, which have of course a strong reflection in both real life African American history (see Maya Angelou) – and Toni Morrison’s Sula, amongst others; Woodard and Teneisha Collins as Tessa play these roles with good feeling, and one is left with a sense of hope at the end of this film. This is a good way to spend 109 minutes of your life. The screenplay is by Paul Weitz and Dana Stevens, based on a memoir by Matthew Logelin, Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Love and Loss.