One of the first pieces we ran on Floom after launching was an ode to some of our favourite on-screen mothers. As Father’s Day approaches, we present to you a shortlist of memorable dads to have graced the world of film and television.
Furious Styles (Boyz N The Hood, 1991)
I get that for most of my generation, Larry Fishburne will always be that-guy-from-The-Matrix-no-not-Neo-the-other-one, but for those who know, he’ll always be one towering man with the name to match: Furious Styles.
As Cuba Gooding Jr.’s dad, he embodies the righteous anger that runs throughout the movie, dignified in his/it’s restraint when it comes to voicing the injustices of life in South Central L.A during the Nineties. It’s to both Fishburne and director John Singleton’s credit that they managed to craft a complex character from what could have been an overly sentimental role: Styles is by turns deadbeat and driven; conservative and progressive - every contradiction thrown up in his heartfelt efforts to mould his son into the best man he can possibly be.
Guido Orefice (Life Is Beautiful, 1997)
Roberto Benigni co-wrote, directed and starred in this (and I don’t use this word lightly) masterpiece about a family of Jewish Italians during the second world war. The film performs a remarkable feat wherein every romantic, hilarious, life-affirming moment serves to heighten the brutal tragedy and despair of the films’s backdrop - that same sense of tragedy and despair however in turn make the romance, the humour and the genuine sense that humanity and love will triumph all the more pronounced.
Benigni plays the clownish Guido, whose irrepressible shows of affection for his wife and son refuse to be dimmed by the horrific treatment they are increasingly subjected to as the film unfolds. The scene I’ve picked here encapsulates the wonderful/heartbreaking spirit of the film, with Guido going to great lengths to try and keep his son’s spirits up by convincing him that they’re part of some big game and the concentration camp is nothing but a playground.
I was going to use the scene in which Guido does a funny walk in front of his son as the latter manages to escape but I found myself genuinely weeping and thought: nobody wants to come away from a flower-buying website with tears in their eyes, do they?
Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights, 2006-2011)
It says Eric Taylor up there but everyone who ever sat down with the intention of watching a throwaway high school soap opera and came away five seasons later having experienced one of the most deceptively complex and emotionally wrenching dramas ever created will know him by one name only. Put simply: he’s Coach.
Played to perfection by Kyle Chandler, Coach was part of a family unit lauded for being one of the most realistic ever committed to screen. His touching, confused attempts to make sense of his teenage daughter’s move into adulthood were offset by the absolute conviction with which he galvanised the otherwise stranded men of a depressed, small-town Texas community that had long since seen the oil fields dry up. Over the course of the show, Coach played a father figure of sorts to pretty much every diverse character to come under his wing, soundtracked to perfection by Explosions In The Sky’s iconic instrumental rock music.
Clifford Worley (True Romance, 1993)
Included pretty much exclusively because of that scene. I remember so clearly witnessing the coming together of Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, two powerhouses of subversive screen presence facing off in a tiny shack next to the railway tracks.
Prior to this scene, Hopper’s Clifford Worley is a cantankerous old man who bitches and moans at his son Christian Slater and the life choices he makes (with some justification admittedly). However, when the chips are down, he makes the ultimate sacrifice. Over the course of this ten minute stand-off, you can almost see on Hopper’s face first the resignation to his fate and then the acceptance that actually, this is just what you do for your kids when you love them.
“I think I’ll have that Chesterfield now…”
Ted Kramer (Kramer Vs. Kramer, 1979)
It’s easy to forget in this post-Meet-The-Fockers age, but truly there are few icons of cinema who can match the performances Dustin Hoffmann accrued during his golden period. This straightforward tale of an absent dad who slowly learns to be a good father when his wife suddenly leaves him is elevated thanks to the performances of Hoffman and Meryl Streep, plus a script that is impressively free of histrionics.
I first encountered this film when I was too young to really engage with it. At weekends when my sisters and I would go to stay with our dad, we would often walk down to the local Blockbusters if the weather was bad and pick out a movie to see us through the afternoon (because my dad was more of a pushover than my mum, we always got ice-cream as well). One afternoon we ended up with Kramer vs Kramer, no doubt misled by the PG certificate and blond-haired boy on the cover. I barely paid attention throughout a film with zero action and lots of adults talking, but what I do remember is looking up as the credits were rolling and seeing my Dad sitting there with tears rolling down his face.
The best movie dads make us want to be better at fulfilling that role ourselves, whether in present or in the future. Maybe that’s why around that time my dad stopped letting us get ice cream every time we rented a video.
(Also Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar acceptance speech for this film is the greatest of all time, hands down).