Fathers and Daughters (3 stars)

Fathers and Daughters

Russell Crowe heads up a guilty pleasure family melodrama from Gabriele Muccino

After his pretty wretched directorial debut The Water Diviner, Russell Crowe continues his slide into mediocrity with Fathers and Daughters, a soapy melodrama with all the sophistication of an episode of EastEnders. He plays author Jake Davis, who's widowed after a car crash (they’re rowing, he’s driving) and left to raise daughter Katie (Kylie Rogers) alone. The accident also leaves him suffering from anxiety attacks – which means several scenes of Crowe unconvincingly convulsing on the floor.

Admitting himself into a psychiatric unit, Jake is forced to leave Katie in the hands of her wealthy aunt and uncle (Diane Kruger and Bruce Greenwood) before the story skips to 25 years on. 'Damaged’ from her childhood – i.e. she sleeps around a bit – the adult Katie (Amanda Seyfried) is out of control, until she meets Cameron (Aaron Paul), a fan of ‘Fathers and Daughters’, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book her father pens after he emerges from hospital. But can they overcome her issues?

Directed by Gabriele Muccino – whose Will Smith vehicles The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds reveal his predilection for syrupy sentiment – Fathers and Daughters is quite brazen in its plotlines. Kruger, as a booze-swilling trophy wife who takes it upon herself to ruin Jake’s life by battling for Katie’s custody, is particularly laughable. But credit debut screenwriter Brad Desch for having the courage of his convictions, furiously sticking to his task of tugging every heartstring going.

Indeed, while it’s very much movie-of-the-week territory, it’s by no means disastrous. Appearing in small roles, Oscar-winners Jane Fonda and Octavia Spencer add class, while Paul is convincingly earnest as the committed Cameron. The relationship between Jake and the young Katie is also touching in places, in spite of the plot’s best attempts to drown it in mush. The result is an A-list guilty pleasure.

General release from Fri 13 Nov.

Fathers and Daughters

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 56min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
  • Cast: Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Paul, Diane Kruger, Bruce Greenwood
  • UK release: 13 November 2015

When author Jake (Crowe) is widowed, he can't cope with raising his daughter alone and sends her to live with her aunt and uncle. Twenty five years later, he tries to reconnect with her. Guilty pleasure family melodrama, with every heartstring twanging away, but Fonda and Spencer add class to minor roles and Paul is…