Film Forum

A Chip off the Old Block: Fatherhood in Film

Young Khadji begins to understand his father Markov better after being reluctantly cared for by Markov’s former comrade, Hamilton. (Via Distrib Films)

Young Khadji begins to understand his father Markov better after being reluctantly cared for by Markov’s former comrade, Hamilton. (Via Distrib Films)


Father-son films seem to explore the archetype of male heroism and its role in paternal bonds. Whether the relationship in question is strained or close in nature, particular films are able to question a son’s identity being tied to his father’s and the potential repercussions of such an embodiment or lack thereof.

The upcoming Filmworks selection at the historic Tower Theatre on Oct. 9 is “The Great Man,” a French drama that not only underscores the complexities of war and immigration, but also touches on a universal theme: fatherhood.

“Like Father, Like Son”

The opening night film at the Fresno Film Festival in 2014, this Japanese family drama intricately explores paternal love while raising the timeless question of nature versus nurture.

Affluent architect Ryota has his world unraveled with the news that his pride and joy, Keita, isn’t actually his son at all. Moreover, his biological son Ryusei is being raised across town by a blue-collar electrician and his wife.

Upon learning the hospital’s accidental switch, Ryota must to come to terms with his true feelings over both of the boys: Keita, the seemingly ideal son, and Ryusei, the imperfect, rambunctious one — but biologically his.

Japanese master filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda leaves you to wonder: Will the boys grow up to be shaped by the mold of their real fathers or come into their own unaffected?

“The Book of Life”

Although this animated delight with a star-studded cast mainly focuses on aspects of Mexican folklore and more specifically, death, a subplot examines its heroes living in the shadows of their fathers.

Young Manolo Sánchez has always dreamed of becoming a musician, but his father Carlos continues to train him to be a bullfighter because: “All of the Sanchezes have been bullfighters. All of them.”

While Manolo struggles to live up to his father’s expectations, his best friend Joaquín Mondragon has to deal with fulfilling a legacy left by his late father, the town hero.

Featuring the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum and more, “The Book of Life” can strike a chord with sons attempting to forge their own path while at the same time honoring their father’s.

“Boy”

The year is 1984 and Michael Jackson is nothing short of an idol for Boy, the film’s titular character. He lives with his brother Rocky, a horde of cousins, a pet goat and his Nan in Waihau Bay, New Zealand.

His absentee father, Alamein, has also become a heroic figure in Boy’s fantasies. But when Alamain returns home after several years away, Boy faces an unsettling truth: Is this the man he remembered or a false image built from his imagination?

If the first paragraph’s eccentricities haven’t enticed you enough to watch, then know this: the coming-of-age story is never short on comedy, and everyone — including father and son — seems to have some growing up to do with or without each other.

Yvette Mancilla studies multimedia journalism at Fresno State. She currently serves as the Filmworks marketing intern.

Every second Friday of the month, Fresno Filmworks screens first-run independent and international movies at the historic Tower Theatre.