In ‘Fatherhood’, Kevin Hart plays Matt, a single dad who is raising his baby girl following the sudden death of his wife immediately after the birth of their child. Matt must navigate the balance between work and family, while also absorbing advice from those around him (such as not worrying about being perfect, and recognising that some things are just out of his control), and pushing back against single dad stereotypes and prejudices.
‘Fatherhood’ is a straightforward movie based around a simple concept, but executes said concept with authenticity and depth of emotion. From the opening, in which the funeral of his wife is intercut with his and her anticipation for the birth of their child, one is attentive and struck by a great sense of sympathy. The feature mirrors back the challenges of life, in that death is also a factor, and there are waves of tragedy and sorrow as well as elation.
Kevin Hart turns to drama having based his career largely in comedy, be it stand-up or playing the comedic sidekick – mostly to Dwayne Johnson – in feature films. It has to be said, the actor is really impressive here as his character’s devotion to raising his daughter Maddy, feels authentic and natural. He totally puts aside his OTT comedic style, and there are a couple of emotional scenes – most notably when he finds out what has happened to his wife – that will leave you stunned.
The greatest force Matt comes up against is mother-in-law Marian, with Alfre Woodard bringing the perfect balance of persuasiveness, gentleness, and steeliness to the role. She delivers some tough truths, telling Matt when he says he’ll raise the babay, and not leave it to her and his own mother: “You want to keep Maddy to yourself because you need a life raft.”
There’s humour in ‘Fatherhood’ too, such as in the scenes set in Matt’s workplace and navigating school politics. We follow Maddy as both a baby and a little girl, and in the role of the latter, Melody Hurd (who also starred in the Amazon Prime series ‘Them’ from earlier this year) is fantastic.
‘Fatherhood’ recalls Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ in that both have an episodic nature and follow their characters’ growth. But it also brings to mind an early feature of its director Paul Weitz, ‘About a Boy’, in its balance of heart and humour, and depiction of a loving relationship between an adult and a kid.
Overall, ‘Fatherhood’ is funny, touching, warm and uplifting in feel, with the aforementioned leading dramatic performance from Kevin Hart really proving a home run.