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Home Vision Entertainment presents
The Good Father (1986)

"Well, we gave each other total freedom and, uh, we hated each other for taking advantage of it. Or maybe we just got married to young."
- Bill Hooper (Anthony Hopkins)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: July 04, 2005

Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Jim Broadbent
Other Stars: Harriet Walter, Frances Viner, Simon Callow, Miriam Margolyes, Joanne Whalley, Stephen Fry, Clifford Rose, Harry Grubb, Tom Jamieson
Director: Mike Newell

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, brief nudity, some intense images)
Run Time: 01h:30m:09s
Release Date: July 05, 2005
UPC: 037429206423
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-B-B D-

DVD Review

The aftermath of the feminist movements of the 1970s is the focus of Mike Newell's somber drama, The Good Father. Produced by Britain's Channel Four in 1986, Newell's film belongs to a moment in time when the filmmakers of England sought to regain their artistic command of the domestic drama. Unfortunately, the efforts here never manage to accomplish this end, and only serve to remind the viewer of the great triumphs by the likes of John Schlesinger and Tony Richardson during the 1960s.

Bill Hooper (Anthony Hopkins) is a recently divorced man whose ex-wife, Emmy (Harriet Walter), has custody of their son and lives in their once happy flat. Embittered by his lot in life, Bill drives his anger out on the streets of London as he cruises along in his motorcycle. Fantasies rush through his head as he visualizes murdering Emmy and their son. Undoubtedly Bill longs for revenge and he gets the opportunity in Roger (Jim Broadbent). Suffering from a similar affliction, Roger's wife, Cheryl (Frances Viner), has left him for another woman but the two seem relatively at peace with one another for the sake of their son. The two men strike up an uneasy bond, with Bill's brooding looming over their every breath.

Bill vents his rage constantly, especially when he reads an anti-patriarchal diatribe by Cheryl, and tries to persuade Roger into thinking women are the enemy. Roger's mild-mannered demeanor refuses to bite at Bill's bait until Cheryl announces that she will be moving to Australia with their son. Now Roger becomes every bit as vicious as Bill, suing for custody and creating a false case against his ex-wife. Bill encourages this behavior, even going so far as to pay for the legal fees, and the turmoil that ensues leaves nobody unaffected.

The plotline of this story, adapted by Christopher Hampton from a novel by Peter Prince, is an interesting premise that presents the filmmakers with the opportunity to address what role men and women should play in society and family. Unfortunately, especially when you consider the talent involved here, this is largely a missed opportunity. Newell's direction fails to cement the work in reality, especially with the use of an inept electronic score and clumsily inserted dream sequences, and at no time did it seem that he knew where he was going with the material. I fully expect that he wanted a certain degree of ambiguity, particularly with the character of Bill, who at times is villainous and others sympathetic (particularly later on), but to what end? Hardly any character development occurs and the actors seem to be just as in the dark as me.

Anthony Hopkins turns in a respectable performance, as do his fellow actors, but it's difficult to appreciate his work because it's uncertain what its intended end is. The most telling scene is probably a flashback where Bill kicks a friend out of his car because she's wearing a t-shirt that reads, "All Men Are Rapists." I can empathize with Bill's disgust at such a t-shirt, but simultaneously am puzzled by the scene. Are the filmmakers opposing the excessive nature of the women's lib phenomenon or condemning Bill's reaction to it? The whole movie seems to be unwilling to commit to a view on the subject and thus becomes tedious.

Even the title doesn't help us determine the view of the filmmakers. It would be quite interesting to hear somebody defend the notion that Bill is a good father, since he professes bitterness about having a child and indulges in violent fantasies about his son's demise. However, it would be equally difficult to defend the notion that the title is ironic, since the film's third act comes off to me as absolving Bill of his behavior. Since Newell doesn't seem to know what he thinks of his material, the movie divorces itself from the audience.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is extremely grainy, but I suspect on the basis of Home Vision's previous work that this cannot be accredited to the transfer. Most likely the source material and its age are to be blamed, but it does make for a distracting viewing experience. Otherwise, colors come off well and contrast is sharp. Depth is acceptable and helps to create a filmlike look.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono English track is a clean presentation of the original audio. Spread out across the front sound stage, the dialogue comes off nicely and is always audible. It's nothing noteworthy, but mono tracks don't get much better.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Insert—contains an essay by film professor Wheeler Winston Dixon.
Extras Review: The only supplemental feature is an insert containing an essay by University of Nebraska film and English professor, Wheeler Winston Dixon. It's a very brief essay and doesn't go beyond being your average movie review, though his thoughts on the film are quite complimentary and offer an alternative view of the picture to mine.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A disappointing drama, The Good Father is unable to contend with the issues it raises. The grainy image transfer is likely the result of the source material, but the mono mix comes across nicely by any standards. The sparse collection of extras make this title more deserving of a rental than a purchase.


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