Monday, 21 November 2011

'Keep your jacket on, your dad’s here' 

This morning I read the news of actor Gerard Butler's revelation that he cried for hours when he was reunited with his father after 14 years. Apparently, Butler's dad left his mother when he was only two years old and turned up, unannounced, when he was in his mid-teens.

"My parents split up when I was young, so my mother was left with the task of being both my mum and my dad. My mother was everything to me. I used to have these horrible nightmares about something happening to her. I didn’t even know my father for many years. He lived in Canada and I didn’t know he was alive. One day when I was 16, I came home from school and my stepfather, who at the time was just my mother’s boyfriend, said, 'Keep your jacket on, your dad’s here,'" Butler, now 42, has been quoted as saying.

Butler said he went on "great adventures" to his dad’s house in Toronto, Canada, and spent quality time with him before he passed away.

Gerard Butler's reunion with his father is perfect fodder for a movie script, a theme the Indian film industry, particularly Bollywood, has pounded into dust. Hollywood, too, has its fair share of father-son duets (which, if I'm not mistaken, surpass mother-daughter combinations). Which ones would those be? I have selected five out of a dozen father-son movies, all tearjerkers, which is not to say they are bad films; in fact, they are all standouts for me. By a sheer coincidence, three of these movies portray the wife-mother in a negative role — running out on the family.

1. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979): Work-is-worship Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) learns to love and cherish his son Billy (Justin Henry) the hard way — when his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) leaves him. Ted brings up his son and discovers his familial responsibility till, one day, Joanna returns to claim their son, a custody battle that knocks on the court's door. Ted loves his son too much to give him up. Robert Benton, who directed this movie, ensures that you blow into your hankie. 

2. The Champ (1979): Billy Flynn (modern-day villain Jon Voight), a former boxing champion and now horse trainer, is bringing up his son T.J. (Rick Schroder) with bare hands and just enough money. His wife Annie (Faye Dunaway), who had left Billy seven years earlier, returns to take their son away. The final scene between father and son is heartbreaking: as Billy lies dying after a boxing match, T.J. cries out in anguish, "Champ, wake up, Champ! Hey, don't sleep now. We got to go home. Got to go home, Champ! I want Champ!" Director Franco Zeffirelli hits you below the belt with his film.

3. Dad (1989): Working man John Tremont (Ted Danson) teaches you how to be the ideal son and friend to your aged and ailing dad. As John takes care of his father Jake Tremont (Jack Lemmon), he realises what he has been missing between him and his dad — and between him and his own son Billy (Ethan Hawke). A fine movie by Gary David Goldberg.

4. Life is Beautiful (1997): What more can anyone say about the WWII film that had the ecstatic director-actor, Roberto Benigni, walking over seats and shoulders to claim his richly deserved Oscar? The film has the most endearing relationship between a father and his son.

5. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006): Director Gabriele Muccino casts Will Smith in the role of a lifetime, possibly. This true story revolves around salesman Chris Gardner (Smith) and his desperate battle to give his son Christopher (Jaden Smith) and himself a better life, one off the streets literally, after he loses his job and his wife leaves him. Gardner comes back and how.

Which father-son movies make your list?


  1. Oh, that last scene from The Champ was a heartbreaker.

  2. It sure was, Charles. I saw it way back in high school and I remember that last scene so vividly.

  3. I clean forgot this one, Patti. I have seen it, though. Thanks for bringing it to my notice.

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  5. Terrific post, Prashant. I really enjoyed reading it.

    At first I thought you were going to talk about the earlier version of THE CHAMP with Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper as the kid. I cried buckets over that one. :)

    Never did see the Jon Voight version.

    Great choices.

    I'd add: TARZAN FINDS A SON, just for fun. And probably, TARZAN'S NEW YORK ADVENTURE (I think that's the title.) This is the one where Boy is kidnapped and Tarzan and Jane have to come all the way to NYC to get him back.


  6. Thanks, Yvette, and for the tips too! I'm not familiar with the earlier version of THE CHAMP. I'm going to have to look for that one. The Jon Voight version is a wonderful film – you'll like it.

    The TARZAN films sound like fun. I rarely skip movies based on comic-book heroes.

    Never heard of SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER. I'm guessing it's about the famous chess champion, in which case it's definitely for me.