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USA 2015
Directed by
Gabriele Muccino
116 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Fathers & Daughters

Fathers & Daughters follows two connected story-lines. In the first we see Jake Davis (Russell Crowe) losing his wife in a car accident, leaving him to bring up their young daughter, Katie (Kylie Rogers).  Suffering mental and physical problems as a result of the accident for which he was partly responsible Jake has to repair to an institution and Katie goes to live with her very wealthy Aunt Elizabeth (Diane Kruger) and Uncle William (Bruce Greenwood) for seven months. When Jake returns to collect Katie they tell him that they want to adopt her. And so a protracted battle begins with Jake, a novelist, struggling to keep his daughter.  The second strand takes place 25 years later. Katie is a social worker studying psychology and looking after a young girl (Quvenzhané Wallis), who hasn't spoken since her mother's death. Katie is also randomly promiscuous to compensate for her inability to connect emotionally. Then she meets Cameron (Aaron Paul), a budding writer and things start to look up for her, but can she commit?

Gabriele Muccino’s film is a quality production showcasing top drawer skills in all departments but also one that subsumes its subject matter with familiar film-making technique.  Its story is a small one (despite its title it’s only about one father and one daughter) that has been overwhelmed by a well-oiled machine, sundering it from what might have made it an affecting work – reality.

From Brad Desch’s well-dovetailed script with each aspect of plotting mirroring the main theme of childhood trauma begetting adulthood dysfunction to the Manhattan settings with their plush production design, from the fluid cinematography to the conspicuous music, no matter how one wants engage with the story one can’t help but be aware that one is watching a movie. To take one small example.  Late in the film Katie, full of regret for her ill-treatment of Cameron decides to go and tell him how she feels. We get tracking shots of her running from her apartment to his from in front and from behind, from the left and from the right, from mid-distance and close up and even from overhead. Not only is this unnecessary but she starts running in broad daylight and arrives at his apartment in the night. And don’t ask how he managed to get set up in a new apartment so quickly, or even how Katie knew where it was. It all, in others words, blithely over-burdens a story that has no need of such embellishment.

What carries the film is the quality of the performances. A burly Crowe, who was an executive producer, sells his role as a writer surprisingly well and the chemistry between him and Kylie Rogers, much as she is the classically blonde-tressed cute movie child, works a treat.  Amanda Seyfried also makes her character credible while Jane Fonda adds a touch of class to her small role. But the film itself is like an exhibition of movie-making craft rather than a drama that engages with its characters. One can admire the skill on display but less of it would have suited the purpose better. 

Available from: Entertainment One




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