Directed by Gabriele Muccino. Starring Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Paul, Viola Davis, Quevenzhané Wallis.
THE PLOT: When she was a small child, Katie’s father Jake (Russell Crowe) – a Pulitzer prize winning author – struggled to take care of her as he came to terms with his own illness, and the death of his wife. While he tries to hang on to the young Katie, his late wife’s sister (Diane Kruger) tries her best to adopt Katie away from her father. 27 years later, Katie (Amanda Seyfried) struggles to let a new man into her life after she felt so abandoned by her father.
THE VERDICT: There is an old fashioned feeling about ‘Fathers and Daughters’, as though it is a throwback to the great tear jerker movies of the 1990s. There is a lot of honesty and truth in the movie, or so it feels, but all of this feels like it is hammered home, so none of the nuance of the story is allowed to emerge.
Although the film is called ‘Fathers and Daughters’ – ostensibly the name of Jake Davis’ last great novel – this is a film about Amanda Seyfried’s character Katie, and Seyfried manages the job rather well, allowing the adult Katie to be a product of the tragic events that shaped her, as well as being relatable and rather likeable. As well as this, there is some great ‘drunk acting’ from Seyfried in one particular scene. Russell Crowe proves once again that he is great at these family dramas, and his chemistry with Kylie Rogers as the young incarnation of Katie is a delight on screen. Quvenzhané Wallis channels all the fire and spirit she had in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ into Lucy, a virtually silent character who says everything she needs to with her expression. This is a strong role for the young actress, and a refreshing change after the violently cheerful Annie last year. The rest of the cast is made up of Diane Kruger, Jane Fonda, Bruce Greenwood, Aaron Paul and Octavia Spencer.
The story blends the past and the present to explain the personal issues that Katie has in her life, and her ability to get through to troubled children, such as Lucy. Brad Desch’s screenplay feels personal and honest, but there are times where the emotion is hit on the head so strongly and repeatedly that it loses the subtlety that would make it heart wrenching and strong. As well as this, the idea that a character can be fixed by a relationship with another one feels like a very outdated storyline, even if it is the character’s choice to change through this new relationship.
Director Gabriele Muccino has made a career of these overly sentimental stories – his previous work includes ‘Seven Pounds’, ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ and ‘The Last Kiss’ – and ‘Fathers and Daughters’ is another of these stories that has a strong heart, but much is lost through overwrought sentimentality. The performances are strong, Crowe and young Rogers in particular are a joy to watch on screen, but many of the characters are underdeveloped and actors underused. That said, there are some lovely moments through the film, they just get lost in a sea of sentimentality.
In all, ‘Fathers and Daughters’ has a vein of honesty running through it that feels real and deeply personal, but this is often overshadowed by the emotional beats in the film being hammered so hard. Crowe and Seyfried are particularly strong, but the rest of the cast are lost in the intersecting stories that make up the heart of the film.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Fathers and Daughters
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Overly emotional
  • filmbuff2011

    Fathers And Daughters is a sentimental but well-meaning exploration of father-daughter bonds, as they weather the storm through difficult times. Told simultaneously over two different timeframes in 1989 and 2014, we meet Pulitzer-prize-winning author Jake (Russell Crowe) and his adoring daughter Katie (Kylie Rogers). Having lost her mother in a car crash, Katie has developed a closer relationship to her father. However, Jake is suffering from manic depression in the wake of the crash and has aggressive seizures which scare everyone around him. While he undergoes treatment, Katie stays with her aunt (Diane Kruger) and her husband (Bruce Greenwood). When Jake comes back, he takes Katie with him, but is he really ready to look after her? In 2014, the now grown-up Katie (Amanda Seyfried) is a social care worker dealing with difficult children. Katie has issues of her own though – she’s promiscuous and is emotionally detached from any men that she encounters. She doesn’t know what love is. That is, until she meets kindly writer Cameron (Aaron Paul), who is a fan of her father’s most famous book Fathers And Daughters, which is essentially all about Jake and Katie, whom he famously called Potato Chip. Can Katie realise that true happiness is right in front of her? Gabriele Muccino is an Italian director who Will Smith brought to America for his English-language debut, The Pursuit Of Happyness. He’s worked steadily in America and sentiment is his strongest point. He has a way of making melodramatic storylines a bit more credible than they have a right to be. Brad Desch’s screenplay is loaded with melodrama – take the moment when the older, now bitter aunt faces Katie after all these years. Or the scene where Katie drops a cruel hint as to what she really feels about Cameron and his gentle courting of her. It’s the stuff of soapy TV movies. These are flawed characters to be sure, but the cast do a uniformly good job at raising the characters above soap opera. Just about. Crowe, also an executive producer, is the film’s strongest point – who knew he could play a doting father? This is a bittersweet story of longing, loss, ambition, family and love. It hasn’t had much of a promotional push from Warner Bros, so it’s likely to slip by unnoticed through cinemas. But there’s a reasonable level of quality to it that earns it a heart-felt three stars. ***