This Father’s Day, as children across America—both big and small—present gifts from smoky, aged bourbon to brand new power tools to tell Dad how much they care, we thought we’d remember why we celebrate them in the first place. Whether stern or sentimental, stressed out or sanguine, dads really care, even if they can’t also show it. With the help of five of our favorite Focus film dads, we’ve highlighted the ways father knows best—or, at least, thinks he does.
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Pride & Prejudice | Dad’s happy if you are
In Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice, the estimable Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland) maintains order in his own quiet, caring way. While Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) has no qualms telling everyone exactly where she stands on the status of her unmarried daughters, dad sees all but rarely shows his hand. He is, as New York Magazine notes, “a man who knows which daughter to adore while merely loving the others.” When his adored Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) comes to him to tell him how wrong she has been about Mr. Knightley (Matthew Macfadyen), Mr. Bennet knows that the best thing to do is just smile and bask in his daughter's giddy happiness.
Beginners | He’s willing to make you uncomfortable
In Mike Mills’ Beginners, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) flashes back to this final years with father Hal (Christopher Plummer) to help him when his own life seems unmanageable. Plummer’s depiction of a man who refuses to give up on life or love, even when he comes out of the closet in his seventies, won him the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor. For Rolling Stone, “Plummer is simply stupendous, refusing any call to sentiment as he shows us Hal's resonant lunge at life.” As Oliver’s dad, Hal is equally unsentimental with his slightly awkward but practical advice on love—personal ads.
A Serous Man | You are always on his mind
For the Coen brothers, their Academy Award®-nominated comedy A Serious Man about a Jewish family living in Minnesota in 1967 feels a bit personal. “It's semi-autobiographical,” explains Joel Coen. “The story takes place in a community very much like the one that we grew up in.” But he is quick to add their dad wasn’t “anything like the character in the movie.” In the film, Lawrence Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is trying to be a serious man, even as his marriage, his job, and the world at large is spinning out of control. In the midst of such chaos, his son Danny (Aaron Wolff)—who is about have his Bar Mitzvah—and daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) are never far from his thoughts.
The Place Beyond the Pines | A dad’s influence is epic and long-term
Writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s epic crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines follows the lasting effects two different dads—Luke (Ryan Gosling), motorcycle stuntman turned bank robber, and Avery (Bradley Cooper), a policeman with political ambitions—have on their sons (Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen). Cianfrance turned to his own experience being a dad to drive the story. “My starting point as a screenwriter is to go to places that scare me,” explains Cianfrance. “All my fears of being a parent went into this movie.” As such, evey action, even Luke’s simple gesture of sharing with his infant son his love of motorcycles, will have a consequence.
Hanna | He’ll help you stand on your own two feet
Part fairy tale, part kickass spy thriller, Joe Wright’s Hanna is ultimately about a young girl leaving the nest to become the woman she was meant to be. Raised in the arctic wilderness by her ex-CIA operative father (Eric Bana) to become an assassin, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is given the choice to decide for herself when her training is over and her future arrives. For Ronan, Hanna’s predicament felt very familiar. “She’s going through the same thing that every teenager goes through, stepping out into the world thinking everything is going to be perfect and everyone is going to be good, and it’s not like that,” explains Ronan. As with all dads, preparing your children to grow up and leave home is part of the job description.