‘I have three kids and no money. Why can’t I have no kids and three money?!’ So laments Homer Simpson, the most famous screen father of them all. But isn’t being a dad the greatest gift a man can have? (I saw that in a card shop). Pop your daddy issues aside for a moment; here is a look at five of the most memorable film fathers.
5. Antonio Ricci – Ladri di biciclette (1948)
Vittorio de Sica’s neorealist classic is testament to the power of screen storytelling. At its heart is the struggle of a father to provide for his son, while remaining someone who he can look up to. There is powerful socio-political commentary and several memorable visuals (the pile of sheets and the racing bicycles in particular), but what really lingers is the relationship between Antonio and Bruno, the latter learning from a man who is barely keeping things together himself. As Bruno takes his disgraced father’s hand, we see how much they both need each other.
4. H.I. McDunnough – Raising Arizona (1987)
‘Their lawless years are behind them. Their child-rearing years lay ahead’. So speaks a poster for Raising Arizona, still the Coen brothers funniest film and a cock-eyed look at how unprepared parents are. Nicholas Cage has never been better at being so bad; his bumbling wannabe-dad H.I. cannot even steal diapers without the temptation of further crime taking over. But his heart is good, and despite the best efforts of his former cellmates and the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse he finds a way to keep Nathan Jr. from harm. Even if it does mean wearing a panty on his head.
3. Emad Burnat – 5 Broken Cameras (2011)
When his fourth son Gibreel is born, Emad Burnat gets his first camera and documents the boy’s early years in the midst of the endless Israel/Palestine conflict. Juxtaposing film of his friends at the dangerous frontline with sweet, sincere home footage, he connected the fears and dreams of one father to a wider humanity; it is only blind luck that has meant we are not Emad or Gibreel. Bernat assembled the documentary from his recordings with the assistance of Guy Davidi, an established cameraman and director. It always gives me a little hope of an end to this senseless war to remember that Burnat is Palestinian; Davidi is an Israeli.
2. Archie – Broken (2012)
There’s a lot going on in Broken, Rufus Norris’ adaptation of Daniel Clay’s novel, but the serene, wise centre is always lawyer Archie, played with sublime understatement by Tim Roth. Both book and film take cues from To Kill A Mockinbird, with Archie teaching his spirited daughter Skunk (not Scout) through gentle kindness to all instead of didactic dominion or doctrine. This film is acutely underrated on Rotten Tomatoes; it is one of the most powerful depictions of family life and fatherhood in contemporary Britain.
1. Jim’s Dad – American Pie – American Reunion (1999-2012)
I tried not to include him, but there is no escape. Noah Levenstein, known to all as Jim’s Dad, is the unmatched template for modern film fatherdom. Forever trying to pass on advice to the eternally embarrassed Jim, he is as important to the American Pie troupe as Stifler, Finch or even his own son. Eugene Levy, he of the glorious eyebrows, is the only actor to feature in every American Pie film (Band Camp, The Naked Mile, Beta House & The Book of Love are all endearingly crap), making Mr. Levenstein the Godfather of gross-out teen humour. Just don’t offer to show him your magazines.
Now which dads are more deserving of a mention than the ones above? George Bailey? Mufasa? Liam Neeson in Taken? Whoever you think it is, pass it on in the comments below, or on twitter at @dreamdepends!