Single Parents’ Appreciation – On Screen

March 21st, 2013 by Ran

I don’t have kids myself, and when I was asked to write a blog for Single Parents’ Appreciation Day, I was like ‘what the hell do they need appreciation for? One person seems enough to raise a kid. Why does this miniature creature really need two people taking care of it? You don’t want to spoil your child too early, and having two people prance around and cater to its every need seems to me like bad education.’ In spite of my little rant, my boss insisted, so here we are…

After doing a little research on the web, I found out that perhaps raising kids was not as simple as I initially thought (but probably not as hard as it’s being hyped.) As it turns out, Babies require a great deal of attention. You have to feed them every couple of hours, and change their diapers every couple of… (days?) But the most annoying and mind boggling thing I have learned about babies is that when they are tired, they don’t just fall asleep like regular people, they cry. What’s the deal. Dude?? You’re already lying down, all comfy in your cradle, just close your eyes and go to sleep. But do they listen? Of course not. So after I was shocked at how high maintenance babies really are, I conceded single parents may in fact need a day of appreciation, or even two. And here’s an even better idea: single parents should get this day off from parenting. My small contribution to all you single slaves is a list of some fine films and TV shows that portray these one-parent families. You probably wont have time to see them, but I don’t have a better idea for you (so just get a babysitter):

1. Mermaids (1990)

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An eccentric and unpredictable single mom (Cher) relocates with her two daughters (Winona Rider and Christina Ricci) for the umpteenth time to a small New England town. The girls just want to settle down in one place for a change, but not everything happens as planned. This is a charming comedy, and a great chance to see the pre-stardom Rider and Ricci.

2. Tous le soleils (2011)

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Stefano Accorsi is a different kind of single father. Since he lost his wife, he’s been uninterested in finding a new love, consecrating all of his time towards parenting and over-protecting his teenage daughter. So the daughter comes up with a solution that will both get her father of her back, and make him happy at the same time. She and his anarchist brother try and play matchmaker… and hilarity ensues. It’s a fun film that is sure to capture your heart.

3. Ladybird, Ladybird (1994)

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This is not a fun film! If you want to see how hard single parents have it sometimes, go watch Ken Loach’s emotional drama. This is a true story that depicts the struggles of a woman deemed by the authorities as unfit for parenthood, trying to keep her family intact. It’s not an easy watch, and will probably make you cry, but it’s very sincere, letting the story and actors do the work, and without the sentimental manipulations one usually finds in stories of this kind.

4. 35 Shots of Rum  (2008)

A scene from Claire Denis' 35 SHOTS OF RUM, playing at the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival, April 23 - May 7, 2009.

A working class single dad trying to deal with his age and with his daughter’s new romantic relationship with a family friend is at the heart of this excellent and understated French drama by Claire Denis. In my book, the best films are not those that offer solutions, but those who accurately depict the problems, and this film does that with a lot of humanity.

5. Broken Wings (2002)

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This drama from Israel doesn’t deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict for a change; instead, it focuses on a dysfunctional family’s trials and tribulations. The mother, a  widow (third widow in this post if you’re counting), works night shifts at a hospital. Her children’s reaction to their father’s death, coupled with the lack of parental supervision, threatens to dismantle the fragile family unit. The acting is great and the script is very poignant.

6. Better Off Ted (2009)

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A single dad (Jay Harrington) working for a powerful corporation is the premise of this (sadly) short-lived sitcom. He is charming, his boss (Portia De Rossi) is heartless, and there’s the necessary workplace unfulfilled love interest (Andrea Anders). The show is very satirical of the corporate world, and that’s probably why it was shut down. Check it out, hopefully you’ll demand its return.

7. Cyrus (2010)

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Offbeat filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass tell the story of a relationship between lonely John (John C. Reilly) and single mom Molly (Marisa Tomei). Their relationship seems to be going well until her odd son (Jonah Hill) becomes jealous and develops a rivalry with his mom’s new boyfriend. It’s creepy and touching at the same time, with Hill providing the creepiness and Reilly the heart. Oh, and it’s funny as well.

8. Spy (2011)

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I have not seen a parent suffering such abuse from his child until I saw this British comedy. Darren Boyd stars as a regular-to-goofy electronics equipment shop salesman who is a constant disappointment to his uptight-to-evil son (Jude Wright), until he gets a dream job as an MI5 agent. The only problem is, he can’t tell his son, and he has to continue being his punching bag. The abuse is hilarious and Boyd is pretty endearing. It’s a fun and wacky show.

9. Mother (2009)

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When her not-so-sharp son is accused of murder, a determined middle-aged single mom goes on an investigation to find the killer. Joon-ho-Bong’s crime mystery is both a feast for the eyes and for the mind. With his unique style, great flair for suspense and backdoor kind of humor, the Korean director who made Memories of Murder and The Host has become one of my favorites. Here’s looking forward to The Host 2!

10. The Turin Horse (2011)

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Being that this film is one of my favorite films in the past few years, I will find any excuse to write about it. A father and daughter live in an isolated farm in late 19th century Europe. What happens to them is a sort of allegory for the fate of humanity. This is a seriously philosophical and experimental film. It’s as slow as molasses and has very little dialogue; but if you let yourself become immersed in the amazing black and white visuals, and try to contemplate what it all means (there’s plenty of time for that), you will be rewarded. Before watching this make sure you have patience and time – two things single parents probably don’t have…

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