Okay, my usual disclaimers… this post has nothing to do with my own divorce or my life as a child of a divorce myself, though there are similarities. The issues in this post, while reflective of the role of the father, can also apply to the mother.
In this movie “I Love My Dad”, “Franklin”, the son, played by James Morosini, who also happens to be the writer and director and whose life the movie’s premise is based on, has severed his relationship from his father, played by actor and dark comedian Patton Oswalt. Admittedly, I am a fan of Oswalt’s which is what drew me to watching the movie.
I must admit, watching a movie like this does have the potential to trigger memories that I have not dealt with or resolved. So it can be a bad thing or a good thing to watch them. I have the unique position of viewing movies like this from a child’s perspective, being alienated from his parent, and from a parent doing all he can to keep and maintain the relationship with his daughters.
What the movie does not address is why, what was behind split of the parents, and what role was played by the mother in the dissolvement of the relationship between the father and his son. Do not misunderstand me, it is clear the later issues that built up the resentment by the son, but not the catalyst, which is relevant as it is more than likely, Patton’s character was not the only problem. So that I do not spoil the movie, there is an issue that the son faced, that was not addressed in detail either, and again, I think relevant to the movie, as could it possibly have been the reason, the father sought to make amends with his son?
An all too common situation, with any number of causes, a parent’s relationship with their child gets fractured as a result from the divorce. There is audio played during the beginning, of the father constantly disappointing his son, with the failure to attend events in his son’s life. Again, as an ACOD, I get how that feels. At some point in “Franklin’s” life, likely after the undetailed event, he cuts his father off from communications via social media, also known as “blocking” him. We did not have this option back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but it is possible, I would have done that to my father as well if I had the chance.
At the advice of a friend, the father is encouraged to create a fake profile on social media, which might allow him to follow what his son is up to, commonly referred to as “catfishing,” pretending to be someone you are not, leading someone else on. This is where things really get messed up, because emotions get involved, and the son is already challenged emotionally. And there is the expression, “the truth always comes out.” And when that happens, results can be even more devastating. The father creates a profile based on a female waitress at a restaurant he eats at. Not realizing the potential for how far this effort could careen out of control, it does just that, when the son insists on meeting her, the real woman unaware that this is even happening. “Franklin’s” mother does not know of the catfishing, but thinks that her son is actually pursuing someone real, regardless, given what he has gone through, and still does not think it is a good idea, providing the opportunity for the father to step in, and the attempt to repair the relationship can begin.
The end of the movie is predictable, but also a bit disconnected. There, I have not spoiled anything about the movie.
As I said, as an ACOD, I know there has to be more to the story that led to the estrangement between the father and his son. But I also know, as a father myself, having gone through a divorce with children involved, I was NEVER going to allow the things that happened when I was a child, stand in the way of a relationship between me and my daughters. NEVER! Albeit, I had a couple of things in my favor that my father did not have, technology for one. I truly believe, that having the tool of video chat via apps such as Facetime, made all the difference in the world. Whereas with a phone call, there was no way to see if attention was being paid when we talked. More importantly, there was an obvious impact, being able to see each other every day.
Now, as for the issue of “not being there” was presented constantly in the movie, again, as an ACOD, I get it. And I know the finality of “having enough.” But unlike Patton’s character, as a father, I have done all I can to make sure that I have been there for events in my daughters lives. As older teens, they were able to see for themselves, and judge for themselves, and understand if there was a reason I was not able to make something. This became a frequent challenge during Covid times, between restricted flying, and of course, prevention, as I had multiple life saving surgeries that needed to be done, and would be delayed with an exposure to Covid. But even pre-Covid, there were “speed bumps” in my way that at times prevented me from seeing my daughters. I never let my daughters believe that they were unloved, forgotten, or not important to me. Today, I help them prepare for college life and beyond. Giving up on my daughters, getting into a situation as my father did, and as Patton did, was never an option.
So unlike Patton’s father character, I did not have to resort to means to try to get back into my daughters lives. I am a fan of Patton, but I do wish that perhaps a different approach would have been taken. Easier said than done, as I have no idea how else that could have been done. The easiest option is never get into that situation in the first place, but depending on the level of antagonism from the other parent, it might not be unavoidable.
The movie, “I Love My Dad” is no “Kramer vs. Kramer” or “Mrs. Doubtfire” as far as the portrayal of the complexities of the alienation between parent and child. But this dark and very twisted comedy, at least puts a current spin on the attempts to resolve the relationship, and sometimes in a very cringe-worthy way.