Fathers and Daughters (2015)

  • Time: 116 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Gabriele Muccino
  • Cast: Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Paul, Jane Fonda


A Pulitzer-winning writer grapples with being a widower and father after a mental breakdown, while, 27 years later, his grown daughter struggles to forge connections of her own.


  • Fathers and Daughters is a standard but undeniably affecting melodrama that follows two stories. The first is that of award-winning author Jake Davis (Russell Crowe), who is mired in grief and guilt following a car accident that left his beloved daughter Katie (Kylie Rogers) motherless.

    Jake’s trauma is not only emotional, but mental and physical as well. Diagnosed with manic-depressive psychosis, he is also suffering from seizures. Though he worries about leaving Katie so soon after her mother’s death, he knows he cannot effectively take care of her unless he himself is taken care of and so he places Katie in the hands of her wealthy aunt Elizabeth (Diane Kruger) and uncle William (Bruce Greenwood) whilst he checks himself into a mental health facility. Seven months later, he returns to retrieve her, their reunion is joyful, and happily ever after seems right around the corner.

    Except Elizabeth has other plans. She wants to adopt Katie, reasoning that she and her husband could provide the young girl with a far better life. Jake is naturally unwilling to consider this and does what he can, writing all night, teaching for next to nothing at Katie’s expensive school in lieu of her tuition, and ensuring that Katie does not lack for his love. The odds continue stacking up against him. Not only does William have more money than God to keep Jake longed in a prolonged custody battle, but there are still the seizures to contend with.

    Fathers and Daughters is a companion piece to director Gabriele Muccino’s The Pursuit of Happyness, which featured Will Smith as a down-on-his-luck father valiantly trying to shield his child from the realities of their life. Neither film has a patch on Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, arguably the ultimate in the extreme lengths a father will go through to ensure his child’s innocence, happiness, and well-being. [Of course, mothers have been doing this on-screen since movies began, though their sacrifices tend to be more excoriated rather than applauded.] Crowe is very good as the beleaguered Jake, and he and Rogers have such a warm and lovely rapport that one wishes screenwriter Brad Densch would have abandoned the second narrative altogether.

    That story unfolds 25 years later. Katie, now played by Amanda Seyfried, is working on her graduate degree in psychology and training to be a social worker. Sexually forthright, she bristles with fear at the emotionally stable relationship she was found with aspiring novelist Cameron (Aaron Paul). Densch doubles down on the melodrama, especially when the self-proclaimed self-destructive Katie destroys her relationship in the most spectacular fashion. Muccino has never shied away from big emotions – he will yank at the heartstrings when a mere tug will do – and the histrionics are unleashed to maximum effect.

    Indeed, Fathers and Daughters makes no pretense about being a glossy, tearjerking soap opera, and that self-awareness allows its two-dimensional characters, platitude-filled dialogue, and dime-store psychology to be viewed with a more forgiving eye.

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  • “You’re my Potato Chip, You and nobody else, okay?”

    You get an allergic reaction when watching an over-sentimental film? Or are you utterly devastated after seeing an emotional tearjerker? One good advice. Avoid this one because this is the most pathetic movie ever made. Collect all movies with Weltschmerz as a central theme and you can be sure that it’s used in “Fathers and daughters”. A painful loss. A mental illness. The fight against mental demons. A combat against relatives so you can bring up your daughter. A professional failure first. A grandiose victory afterwards. Scars from a past with all its consequences. And finally one finds the strength to close this painful chapter. It’s all in there. Ad nauseam.

    So be prepared for a hellish ride full of emotions. Personally, I enjoy watching this type of films once and a while. Just to realize that my life isn’t so bad right now. But this was a bit overdone at a certain moment. And on top of that, the entire film is additionally divided into two periods in which the whole story takes place. Sadly, by the absence of something crucial in the present, the clou regarding the past is already given away. What really pisses me off is the fact that filmmakers sometimes think the public is stupid. Jake (Russell Crowe) has a brain trauma because of the accident which leads to sudden attacks. But that was clear to me already after the first incident. It wasn’t necessary to give several demonstrations of his misfortune. Ditto about the psychological trauma the adult Katie (Amanda Seyfried) suffered from. That was also evident after her first one night stand. Her transformation into a slutty seductress so she can get laid for the umpteenth time by a total stranger, was also unnecessary.

    Russell Crowe miraculously fits perfectly for the role as the suffering father. He has to face a series of setbacks. The loss of his wife, a brain disorder, a series of bad reviews and a sister in law who blames him for the death of her sister and who’s willing to do everything in order to adopt his daughter (because he isn’t be able to raise her). You would get strokes and nervous breakdowns for less. The most tender and lovely rendition is played by Kylie Rogers as the very young Katie. So charming and angelic that I sometimes would like to adopt her myself. She mastered the whole range of filial emotions effortlessly. And Amanda Seyfried as the adult Katie had some magical moments as she tried to help a young girl named Lucy (Quvenzhané Wallis), also a traumatized young girl. The most loaded part,full of drama, was reserved for Diana Kruger as the embittered sister who tries to keep her anger under control by consuming large amounts of alcohol.

    There were a few things that bothered me terribly. Firstly, I thought the sentence “Men … they can survive without love. But not us women” was rather derogatory towards the male sex. In a split second we were reduced to unfeeling conquerors. This quote on the other hand is cited by Diana Kruger. So it actually fell pretty ridiculous. I still don’t understand how come the adult Katie (who has to be over 32 years at that moment) is still in college. And the way the legal jousting between Jake and William (Bruce Greenwood) resolves, is too ridiculous for words. Granted, it was a chuckle moment (resulting in some malicious pleasure and a firm “Yes”) but then again it seemed like a simplistic conclusion of generally lengthy legal proceedings. The story-line and ingredients that were used in “Fathers and Daughters” seem to be typed on Jake’s typewriter. Also antiques and stale. Ultimately this corny movie has the same characteristics as a bag of crisps. Easy to digest and not very memorable. The only difference is, that after such a bag of chips, sometimes I’m yearning for more.

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