“A Fathers Rights” a recent effort by Nashville filmmaker William Fain proves the validity of advice often given to writers: Write what you know. As the title boldly states, this film is the embodiment of a movement that in many cases is fought alone and against all odds.
The film is based upon producer, William Fain’s, own personal struggle to have a meaningful relationship with his child, and his fight against a system that by default, and regardless of evidence to the contrary, favors the mother as the most fit parent.
In the story, Robbie Davis plays Seth Ryder, a soft-hearted man who falls for the wrong woman. Christian Pitre plays Nicole, a beautiful woman who, claiming that her marriage is abusive, slips into Seth’s world. I challenge any man to say he wouldn’t have been hooked by her drama and good looks. Rather than condemning Seth for going out of his way to help her out of her bad situation, and to replace her heartache with tenderness, we admire his unassuming goodness, but as his best friend sees, we also sense that this will be his undoing.
Sufficient back story of an abusive childhood makes Pitre’s portrayal of manipulative Nicole believable. We watch as she methodically uses her unborn child as a tool to gain complete power over the man in her life. So many of the stereotypes that fathers and men going through divorce find facing them are addressed in the film. From the state representatives who proclaim that they are “simply looking out for the child” implying the assumption that they are truly on a witch hunt for evidence that will validate their presence and their salary to the images that hang on the walls and fill the informational brochures of such state agencies that portray again and again the iconic concerned parent child relationship as being shared between a child and mother. The fitness and presence of a father in parenting roles is largely absent, and if there is the assumption of dysfunction, absence, abuse, negligence or (most often) lack of “natural” parenting skills, is placed squarely on the absent or abusive man’s shoulders. Society simply does not associate men with the role of parent, certainly not when a woman (no matter how dysfunctional a woman) is present. The film follows the classic hero’s journey which ultimately must be taken alone and against seemingly insurmountable odds. Seth Ryder faces a judge who flagrantly wears his authority and comfort with the biases he reinforces everyday in the courtroom above the right of Seth to respectfully (and out of frustration, not so respectfully) question them.
Though most of us might never encounter a woman as messed up as Nicole or a judge as blind to reason as those that Seth Ryder encounters, our plights often leave us as powerless when it comes to our relationships to our children. Though the film must raise the peaks and lower the valleys for dramatic effect, most fathers in similar situations will tell you that the level of drama, suspense and unpredictable plot twists are a pretty accurate depiction of what fathers go through every day in the family courts of America.
At film’s end we see a scene with our hero playing with his little girl in a park. It is one of those scenes where, because we’ve only seen the daughter as an infant and because it is filmed with a gauzy filter we’re not really sure if we are witnessing a flash-forward, a representation of the father’s fantasy, or perhaps even a glimpse of heaven. Perhaps all three. As most dads can attest, having a reunion like this, a closeness to the child one’s heart yearns for right here on earth while they’re young enough to hold, truly is heaven.
William Fain’s should be applauded for his ability to get out a message that society seems to have a hard time swallowing in a highly entertaining manner. A Father’s Rights will be out on video soon. Check out William Fain’s site at: www.williamfain.com
Rick Ortiz is editor of dadsdivorce.com