Fatherhood tells the true story of Matthew Logelin (comedian Kevin Hart), whose wife, Liz, passes away after giving birth to their daughter Maddy (Them’s Melody Hurd). With many of his loved ones doubting his capabilities to care for a child on his own, Matthew aims to prove them all otherwise.
We don’t get much of an opportunity to know Liz as a character, as her death comes within the first few minutes of the film. However, the result (whether intentional or by happenstance) is that her death is all the more heartbreaking. In the film’s exposition, Liz is ripped out of the only reality that we are presented with. I suppose it could be synonymous with the way she exited the life of her husband, family, and friends.
After Liz’s death, we see Matthew struggle to change diapers, get Maddy to stop excessively crying, and juggle work at the same time. Eventually, he gets the hang of it, and in the process passes his first doctor visit for Maddy, demonstrating his success as Maddy’s sole caretaker. The film then flashes forward X years. Maddy is in elementary school and it seems as though she and Matthew have a great father-daughter relationship. This is a side we rarely get to see of jokester Hart and it’s rather refreshing.
Lately, I’ve enjoyed Hart more in films with deeper meaning than his comedic features. This film gives us a chance to see Hart’s more serious side without sacrificing humor entirely, which makes it a strong follow-up to his previous film, The Upside. While Fatherhood does feature instances of comedic relief, they are mostly handled by Matthew’s best friend Jordan (The Carmichael Show’s Lil Rel Howery).
I think this was a very wise choice—going against popular opinion—recent Kevin Hart performances haven’t lived up to his past comedic roles or stand-up specials. His last special, Kevin Hart: Zero F*cks Given, was nowhere near as hilarious as his past acts: Kevin Hart: I’m a Grown Little Man, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, Kevin Hart: Seriously Funny, and Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain.
I’m not sure what the root cause of his lack of laughability roots from, but it just isn’t the same Kevin Hart that I once watched. Time after time we see him joke about his height for a cheap laugh or force a joke in one of his films where it feels out of place. Take his comedy with Dwayne the Rock Johnson, Central Intelligence. While the film has some captivating action sequences, from a comedy standpoint, I rarely laughed out loud.
More than 700 women die every year in the US as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, so stories like these are more prevalent than we may think. Being a parent is a very tough job. Having grown up with a single mother and a distant father is tough all on its own. Seeing the struggles that my own mother went through, allows me to understand how much harder it must have been for Matthew in the film.
The difference for my mother is she had a partner that chose to not be there for some time. Facing the reality that your partner cannot be there must be devastating. That may be the main reason I enjoyed the film. I appreciated seeing a young girl have the time of her life with her father. The days when you’re a kid are some of the ones that stick with you the most.
Though I commend the film for expressing the hardships of being a single father, I found myself wanting more emphasis on the impact of losing your mother. There were not many instances of this other than the discussion of Maddy wearing pants to school (rather than a skirt) and her choice to wear boys’ underwear. There could have been a deeper conversation between Hart and Hurd’s characters, which I thought would have been the case when we are introduced to Matthew’s love interest.
In terms of the introduction of Lizzie, a.k.a. Swan (She’s Gotta Have It’s DeWanda Wise), Matthew’s love interest in the latter half of the film, we don’t see much feminine or motherly influence from her when it pertains to Maddy. It seemed as though Maddy’s character wanted more from her too. We can see the admiration and desire in her eyes that she has in the scene where she spends the night at her friends’ house. The mother kisses the daughter goodnight and it seems as though that’s something Maddy knows she doesn’t have. It is also obvious in the scene when Matthew puts her to bed but forgets to give her two kisses goodnight.
At that moment, I expected the scene to mimic what Maddy had seen with her friend’s mother, but the opportunity was missed yet again. Wise’s role in the movie didn’t serve much purpose other than becoming a second conflict for the movie to reach its final climax before finding resolution. I would argue that with the film not investing in Maddy and Swan developing more of a connection, it wasn’t worth bringing it up.
Despite this lack of depth in its focus on missing a mother’s presence, Fatherhood does at least bring to light the importance of being an active father and the struggles that come with it. Overall, I would say Fatherhood is a surprisingly lighthearted film that any family or individual would enjoy on a night in.
Fatherhood is now available on Netflix.