[‘FATHERHOOD’ Review] Kevin Hart delivers a career-best performance in a sweet, tender Netflix drama

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

FATHERHOOD

Rated PG-13, 109 minutes.
Director: Paul Weitz
Cast: Kevin Hart, Melody Hurd, DeWanda Wise, Alfre Woodard, Deborah Ayorinde, Lil Rel Howery, Anthony Carrigan, Linda Joyce Nourse, Frankie Faison, Thedra Porter and Paul Reiser

Now available to stream on Netflix.

As a father, I’m naturally drawn to movies and television shows about fatherhood. I’m always looking to learn and live vicariously through others’ experiences and stories because I care. I care so deeply about what kind of father I am to my child. From the moment I held my son in my arms, I just wanted to protect him from all the pain in the world and do everything in my power to make sure a smile seems permanent. However, it’s just not humanly possible. Whether you’re a mother or a father, you do your best while remaining under constant construction as a person. Mistakes will be made, but you always lead with love.

This is what the thoughtful, endearing Netflix drama Fatherhood, starring Kevin Hart, is all about.

For two hours, we watch a single father try to carry himself through the ups and downs of raising a daughter (Melody Hurd). The pains of Hart’s father character, Matt, is something I don’t ever want to imagine for myself. The first few minutes of Fatherhood already had me a crying mess, primarily because Hart goes to an unexpected dramatic level that jabs you right in the chest. He’s a gifted jokester, no doubt, and there’s plenty to laugh at in this grounded drama. However, his performance is so raw and honest that you can’t stack it next to anything else he’s done. It’s powerful work, and it continues from start to finish.

Although you’ve seen other films examine this territory, and perhaps you can detect the manipulation happening, Fatherhood is told with such sincerity that you buy into it all. You believe Matt’s struggles—balancing life and work, not getting the rest you need to get through the day, and constantly doubting your abilities. There’s also the dirty diapers and spit-up messes. Two hilarious sequences involving these things should ring true for any parent.

Additionally, filmmaker Paul Weitz (About a BoyMozart in the Jungle) has the film move at a pleasant pace, not allowing the emotionally heavy moments to stick around longer than they should. He uses truth throughout, whether it’s funny or sad. You’ll laugh at Matt’s friend, Jordan (Lil Rey Howery), cracking jokes about parenting, and you’ll cherish the moments where the film hits pause to have a real conversation. Many of these convos happen with Matt’s mother-in-law, Marian (a terrific Alfre Woodard). She’s not shy to call Matt out and challenge him, but it always comes from a place of love.

Fatherhood is just a sweet movie. It’s never mean-spirited or is afraid that audiences won’t find it funny or dramatic enough. The film unfolds as life would for those in a situation like this. The journey isn’t always easy, but you’ll love it for all of where it goes. And I did.

Grade: B+

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.