Jerry just got released from prison, and the first thing he wants to do is walk his daughter Lily down the aisle on her wedding day. The only problem? He isn’t officially invited. In fact, he’s persona non grata with his own family.
Jerry crashes the wedding anyway, only to realize just how unwanted he is at the family occasion. His estranged wife seemingly hates him, the groom is ineffectual and caught in the middle, his brother-in-law wants to punch him and even the minister can’t stand him.
But when Jerry finally gets to Lily, he realizes the biggest battle may not be walking her down the aisle, but hearing some hard truths about just what his absence means to her.
Created by director Verner Maldonado and writer Matthew Schlissel, this scrappy yet touching short family drama chronicles the lengths that one father will travel to atone for past mistakes and make up for lost time — only to find that redemption is not as straightforward as he thinks.
The foundation of the short is its character-based writing, offering a full and satisfying emotional arc and vividly portrayed relationships that cover the fractious yet deeply felt currents of familial love in its many permutations. The emotional terrain of the film is surprisingly rich and complex, especially in a short narrative, but it’s held together by a steady and enduring view of parental love.
The camerawork and naturalistic cinematography are as rough-and-tumble, loose and volatile as the main character himself. But the style offers an immediate and arresting immersion into the complex web of resentments, unresolved conflicts and unspoken truths that Jerry must navigate to get what he wants.
Jerry faces resentment and anger from nearly all members of his family as he tries to infiltrate into the “inner circle” of his daughter’s wedding. It doesn’t help that his approach can be as confrontational and volatile as his temperament.
But even when actor Gareth Williams gives us a glimpse of the darkness and unpredictability that likely put him in prison in the first place, he never loses touch with the deep well of paternal love that motivates him to walk through fire and fury in the first place. It’s this enduring love as a father — and the regret he carries for missing much of his daughter’s life — that tugs at the heart when he finally reaches Lily and begs her to let him walk her down the aisle.
The ending of “The Father” doesn’t descend into mawkishness, however, because it stays true to the sharp, sometimes ferocious nature of this particular patriarch, which admittedly seems inherited by many branches of the family as a common trait. But it’s still quite touching because of its truthfulness, and its implicit recognition that in many families, love and devotion often co-exist with anger and resentment. When Jerry truly hears the perspectives of those he has affected, he finally makes some headway — and finds his way back into his loved ones’ lives.