Before you celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday – either in your own 10-person social bubble or over Zoom/Facetime/Google Meet/that ancient device known as the telephone – here’s a guide to the best dad-centric cinema available to stream.
At first, it might seem like these titles go in the exact opposite direction of what a modern Father’s Day movie might look like. That’s because, well, most contemporary movies about dads either wallow in easy sentimentality or paternal idiocy, or turn fathers into kick-butt mercenaries. For a slightly more challenging look at the concept of fatherhood, begin with Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winner, which casts the South Korean director’s regular leading man Song Kang-ho as a down-and-out patriarch with too many problems to count. Mixing the social outrage of Snowpiercer, the wild humour of Okja, the heartwarming family drama of The Host and the slow-boil vengeance of Mother, Bong’s latest is a genre-hopping triumph that will also cause you to rethink the sacrifices your own father might have made along the way.
The Irishman (Netflix)
Martin Scorsese’s latest crime epic has as much to say about the corrupt nature of American business as it does about parenting. Take the way the director positions Peggy (Anna Paquin), the eldest daughter of the film’s murderous antihero Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro). Much consternation was had in certain critical circles about Peggy only uttering half a dozen words during the course of 3½ hours, but the crushing weight of those words – and the way Scorsese films Paquin’s side-eye glances at the proclivities of her father – speak loud and clear. The Irishman is as much a bloody gangster saga as it is a dissection of parental responsibility.
Denzel Washington’s spare and meticulously faithful adaptation of August Wilson’s 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning play earned a metric ton of praise for co-star Viola Davis’s performance when it was released in 2016. But Washington – in the director’s chair for the third time in his career – deserves as much in-retrospect attention for his starring role as a garbage man who cannot, will not, connect with his son in 1950s era Pittsburgh.
Manchester By the Sea (Amazon Prime Video)
If you want to just take this Father’s Day weekend to crawl up into a ball and cry until your soul runs dry, well, here’s a fun little option from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan. Manchester By the Sea is a brutal, heart-wrenching ride, focusing on a man (Casey Affleck) who shrugs off parental responsibility for his orphaned nephew (Lucas Hedges), but it is also just about transcendent filmmaking. Complicated, rough, devastating and quite funny in parts, the film twists the knife with the finesse of a master cinematic killer.
Hearts Beat Loud (Kanopy)
Nick Offerman, who a good portion of the internet wishes was their daddy, plays father of the year in this light but affecting heartwarmer about dads, daughters and the power of music. I realize that description makes director Brett Haley’s film sound like unbearable cheese, but there’s a sly winsomeness to it that makes the entire production feel like a giant bear hug from Offerman himself.
Paris, Texas (Criterion Channel)
Wim Wenders’a classic drama feels as powerful today as it did when it was first released in 1984 (I mean, I assume; I was only one year old at the time). Following the most awkward family reunion possible between a disheveled, vagabond father (Harry Dean Stanton), his brother (Dean Stockwell, perfectly cast) and his son (Hunter Carson), Paris, Texas is deep, dark, and magnificent.
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