“American Beauty” Dir. Sam Mendes (1999)
Odds are your dad has already seen this one, but there’s a couple of reasons you might not want to present him with this classic on Father’s Day. Set aside the centerpiece of the film (Kevin Spacey’s obsession with his daughter’s co-cheerleader). Spacey the dad has nothing going for him here. The film opens with his daughter saying she wants him to die. He’s stuck in a horribly sad suburban lifestyle (and a house to match). But what might actually be just as upsetting is Wes Bentley’s dad, (Chris Cooper), the one who seems to have abused his wife into quiet insanity and eventually manages to drive his son out of the home just before making a move on Spacey. And it all ends with murder. Kind of a downer on Father’s Day.
“Another Earth” Dir. Mike Cahil (2011)
Mike Cahill’s “Another Earth” is a well written sci-fi drama about a twin planet to our own, but watch it with a sci-fi loving friend. Brit Marling stars as a beautiful high school student with everything going for her, until she crashes into a family of three, killing a pregnant mother and a child and leaving the father (William Mapother) in a coma. Four years later, Marling tries to make amends but is too afraid to tell him who she is. We see things from her perspective, so when a quick plot twist causes terrible dramatic irony, we’re not as horrified as Mapother is when he figures it all out. It wraps up almost too nicely to believe, given what happens to him is the most mind bending shock. If you’re watching with dad, he’ll probably feel the weight of the whole thing pretty acutely. Not the best choice.
“Dogtooth’ Dir. Giorgos Lanthimos (2009)
There are probably a good amount of people who would suggest not watching Giorgos Lanthimos’ “Dogooth” with anybody, least of all a father. The film, which was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, is about a husband and wife who keep their three children oblivious to what goes on in the outside world. It’s a bloody, bizarre look at two individuals who should have never been parents. While “Dogtooth” may be a film to watch alone, on a rainy day, ALONE, it’s definitely not something to share with dads this Father’s Day.
“Happiness” Dir. Todd Solondz (1998)
Todd Solondz is master at making his audience uncomfortable (it’s a good thing context-dependent). His artistry focuses on depicting the grotesque and ugly realities, always playing around with taboos in the most casual manner possible to illuminate their core truth. His 1998 film “Happiness” is a perfect example of this. The film soberly examines the life and times of three sisters, their families and those around them, and pushes beyond any façade of smiles to reveal their ‘awkward moments’ (to put it lightly). Whether it’s watching funny man John Lovitz tear down Jane Adams’ character, Joy Jordan, for breaking up with him in the opening scene or Phillip Seymour Hoffman masturbating to strangers’ voices on the phone, the film isn’t exactly a low-key experience and shouldn’t be first choice for father’s day. Furthermore, the storyline involving the Maplewoods in particular make this film wildly inappropriate for such festivities.
“Hard Candy” Dir. David Slade (2005)
It doesn’t matter how cool your father is, there are certain subjects that you don’t really want to bring up around him. The thriller “Hard Candy” starts off unsettling, as the very young Hayley (Ellen Page, in a breakout performance) meets the much older Jeff (Patrick Wilson) for a coffee date — and it only gets worse. Much much worse. Which is saying something, given that the film begins with a sexual predator coaxing a 14-year-old into showing him her bra. Though come to think of it, “Hard Candy” might be tougher for your dad than for you. Especially if you’re a woman, and he’s remembering just how dangerous the world can be for little girls.
“In the Bedroom” Dir. Todd Field (2001)
There’s a scene in the first part of Todd Field’s “In the Bedroom” that’s an unexpected game changer. The film, which starts with a summer romance between a college kid, Frank (Nick Stahl) and a single mom (Marisa Tomei) quickly shifts into real dark territory. Without giving any spoilers, most of “In the Bedroom” follows the relationship between Frank’s parents, played so brilliantly by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson. They have a seemingly perfect marriage, but their home is filled with secrets and passive aggressiveness. From the get go the drama is not one anyone should share with dad. Wilkinson’s character, although harmless, is pervy, and we get a sense of this in the beginning, when he glares enviously at his son’s girlfriend. Spacek, on the other hand, is an icy matriarch with a shaky moral compass. They are both fascinating characters and the film is an exceptional family drama. Still, it’s pretty dysfunctional and not the heartwarming movie you’d like to share with your family on Father’s Day.
“Little Children” Dir. Todd Fields (2006)
“Monster’s Ball” Dir. Marc Forster (2001)
Marc Forster’s Oscar-winning drama
“Monster’s Ball” ends on a hopeful note, but getting there is one grim ride punctuated by one the most explicit sex scenes ever committed to an R-rated film, scenes of child abuse and a whole lot of death. The centerpiece sex scene between Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton gives “Blue is the Warmest Color” a run for its money in the “will this ever end?” department. Watching it with your father would no doubt just prolong that experience — and not in a good way. That’s not all. Before the two get it on, Thornton’s character spews hateful speech to his son (played by Heath Ledger) and physically abuses the poor guy, leading to his son’s eventual suicide.
“Oldboy” Dir. Chan-wook Park (2003)
“Oldboy,” Park Chan-wook’s visceral and stylish South Korean mystery thriller, is one of the most beloved foreign language films in contemporary cinema and for good reason, be it Choi Min-sik’s destructively vengeful performance as kidnapping victim Oh Dae-su or the brutal horizontal fight scene mesmerizingly captured in a nearly four-minute long take. But for all its sweaty griminess and gruesome violence, Chan-wook’s revenge story actually seems to be the perfect father-child story for much of its runtime. After all, any father that goes on a manhunt to find his lost daughter after spending 15 years in solitary, drug-tampered isolation has to win some kind of “father of the year” award in our books. But than comes that third act jaw-dropper, a plot twist so revoltingly deconstructive that it folds the entire story in on itself with a nasty, can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head punch. Often regarded as one of the most shocking turn-of-events in film history, this plot twist more than cements “Oldboy” a worthy spot on this list.
“The Sweet Hereafter” Dir. Atom Egoyan (1997)
There are many reasons why “The Sweet Hereafter” is not a family-friendly film. For starters, it’s centered on the aftermath of a tragic school bus accident that ends the lives of nearly all the children of a small Canadian town. The sole survivor, Nicole, played by the talented Sarah Polley (currently breaking ground as a director), loses her ability to walk and is confined to a wheelchair. What ensues is an adult drama brought to a head by the teenage Nicole, as she faces the consequences of an incestuous relationship with her father. Yes, the only father to be yet a father in “The Sweet Hereafter” is having sexual relations with his young daughter. Meanwhile, the protagonist of the film, Mitchell (the excellent Ian Holm) is working to build a case against the bus company in order to provide some compensation to the town parents; however, the truth behind his investment in an incident seemingly unrelated to his personal life is guilt over his own paternal failings. Directed by Atom Egoyan, the film begins with a beautiful shot of family bliss but soon deteriorates into a sombre study of a community in crisis–and the secure, loving family becomes the stuff of dreams, only possible as a memory long gone.
“There Will Be Blood” Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson (2007)
Earlier this week, we argued why Daniel Day-Lewis’ Daniel Plainview is one of the worst on screen dads in Paul Thomas Anderson’s crime drama “There Will Be Blood.” The film itself, though, is also not something anyone should share with pop this holiday. “There Will Be Blood” is a crime drama about a ruthless, money-hungry man who exploits everyone and everything around him to unearth some precious California oil. While the film is considered a masterpiece to most, it’s a heartless endeavor on Anderson’s part—a film without an ounce of sympathy. Yes, the relationship between father and son is reason enough not to see it, but the film as a whole is brutal, intense and will not offer the satisfying conclusion or reconciliation you’re hoping for.