Can fatherhood change a man’s feelings, emotions, and values? Here are
three films that show us how being a father changes us, opening us up
more to the world and to others.
, by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, Sergio Pablos (2010)
Felonius Gru, a notorious criminal in his town, aspires to become the most
notorious villain on the planet. His anger, spite, and disrespect toward
others is rooted in childhood wounds of not feeling loved and not receiving
the care and security he needed. His mother always belittled and ignored
him, making him believe he was worthless. Now Gru seeks revenge on the
whole world and tries to get the attention of as many people as possible.
Gru feels he has to compete with other criminals, especially with a
“mysterious villain” who has stolen a famous pyramid. Our protagonist then
sets himself a much more ambitious goal: to steal the moon. To complete his
plan, however, he needs the help of three clueless little assistants. With
his goal in mind, he goes to an orphanage and adopts three young sisters:
Margo, Edith, and Agnes.
At first Gru is distracted and unnerved by their jokes and their constant
need for attention, but he eventually becomes completely enamored with
their tenderness, goodness, and innocence. These three little girls melt
his heart, which had hardened over the years.
Stealing the moon no longer matters. Being a villain no longer seems like a
good idea, since he now loves these girls, and they love him back. In this
animated film, we see that when a parent deprives their child of emotional
connection and respect, it can cause the child to make bad choices and to
want to fill his deep sense of insecurity, at times even inappropriately.
We also see an example of redeeming parenthood: Gru finally reconciles with
his past, feels he’s responsible for these girls, and is committed to
giving them everything they could possibly need. In giving his heart to
someone—and not in receiving attention from the whole world—he finds joy
, by Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich (2003)
Marlin and Coral are two clown fish, living inside an anemone in the Great
Coral has laid over 400 eggs, and they are eagerly awaiting the birth of
One terrible day, a hungry barracuda attacks them. Marlin takes a hit and
faints while trying to save his family. When he regains consciousness, he
discovers that his wife has been eaten… along with all their eggs. Only one
egg remains intact. Widowed and deeply distraught, Marlin decides to name
his only remaining child Nemo—as his wife would have wanted him named—and
promises to never let anything bad happen to him.
The sense of protection that Marlin feels towards his son, while
understandable, eventually becomes suffocating to Nemo. Nemo, in response,
grows up and try to find his own place in the world. One day, after an
argument with his dad, he swims so far away that he gets lost.
The entire film focusses on Marlin’s search for his lost son. Marlin does
everything possible to find him and, with the help of some kind friends he
meets along the way, he will be able to hug his son again. But Marlin’s
greatest challenge will be to accept that he can’t stop his son from doing
anything. He can’t stop him from living out of his own fear. He will come
to understand that a true father must be present but not asphyxiating, an
anchor, but not his son’s “everything.” He becomes a guide who knows how to
let his son walk on his own two feet. Oops… swim with his own two flippers,
, Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen (1940)
A great literary classic that highlights the importance of fatherhood,
brought to life in films, cartoons, and theatrical shows, is the beloved Pinocchio. Originally written by Collodi, one of the best-known
versions of this story is Walt Disney’s masterful 1940 film.
The protagonist is a marionette puppet, made by the hands of the old
carpenter Geppetto, who magically comes to life!
Pinocchio, right from the start, proves to be inexperienced and naive,
easily influenced, and susceptible to a thousand temptations.
As soon as he walks out the door of his house, Pinocchio behaves completely
irresponsibly, making his father anxious. Geppetto, not seeing him return,
goes in search of his son.
Pinocchio wants to become a “real boy,” made of flesh and bone, but he will
only be able to do so when he becomes responsible for his actions and is
able to love his father in the same way his father has loved him.
The “transformation” from wood to flesh happens at the very end of the film
when, in the middle of a storm—after having wasted his talents, up to that
point, on things of little importance—he sacrifices himself to save dear
old Geppetto from the raging waters.
The story seems to teach us that we become adults when we take an interest
in others, when we leave behind childish egocentricity, and when we begin
to take care of those who have given us life.
This masterpiece is certainly rich in themes that are to be explored more
deeply; but, without a doubt, it is also a noteworthy film for all those
who are interested in recognizing the central aspects of the father-child
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