A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fathers and Daughters is an emotional, intense drama about the lasting effects of traumatic childhood experiences. Katie (Amand Seyfried) is damaged young woman who lost her parents as a child and, as an adult, habitually picks up men for anonymous sex, a symptom of her inability to feel and her fear of further loss. The movie also shows scenes from Katie's painful past: Her mother dies in a car accident after having an argument about infidelity with Katie's father (Russell Crowe), who was driving. He struggles with lasting injuries and stays in the hospital for months. Sex is implied, and kissing in bed is seen, but there's no graphic nudity. Adults drink to drown their sorrows, and language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "prick."
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What's the story?
FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS is the name of the novel that Jake, a loving father (Russell Crowe), writes as a love letter to his 8-year-old daughter, Katie. Her mother died in a car accident caused by Jake's speeding; he also sustained brain injuries that caused seizures and manic-depressive episodes. Jake struggles to be a great father, writing madly to keep bread on the table, but he's advised that unless he checks into a mental institution for electroshock therapy, he will deteriorate, threatening his ability to care for his daughter. During Jake's seven months of treatment, Katie stays with her wealthy aunt and uncle, and soon they sue for custody, which ruins Jake financially. Intercut with this is Kate's story more than 20 years later, as she struggles to feel love and make connections -- abilities that were derailed by her early loss.
Is it any good?
Overall, this is a moving, well-acted drama about the struggles of surviving childhood trauma. It falls prey to the pitfalls of movies about writers -- watching them commit genius to paper is never particularly dramatic. And in its efforts to prove the depth of the relationship between father and daughter, the movie has a few cloying, clichéd moments of daddy-kid bonding and affection. The villains, too, are a bit more predictably villainy than necessary. The aunt who wants to steal Katie from her father is emotionally cold and drinks too much, while her slick lawyer husband is just a tad too rich and smug to be more than a telegraphic signal of Bad Guy.
But it's to the movie's credit that stars Crowe, Amand Seyfried, Aaron Paul, and Kylie Rogers (who admirably plays Katie at age 8), make even weak moments in Fathers and Daughters' plot work well. Seyfried makes her character's battle to trust in the possibility of love believable and involving, and her scenes with a young traumatized patient (played by Quvenzhane Wallis) are some of the best in the film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Fathers and Daughters tackles emotional trauma. Do you think the girl that adult Katie helps reminds her of her own suffering as a child? How does that help her move forward?
How does the movie portray Jake as a father? Is he sympathetic despite his flaws? Why do you think Katie's aunt and uncle try to take her from her him?
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