I Never Sang for My Father Review
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Gene (Gene Hackman) is finally given an opportunity to start his life over, and it may be his last. Having recently lost his wife, he meets and falls in love with a doctor who has a practice on the other side of the country, and he plans to move out there with her and her children. However, his mother soon passes, and he’s left to contend with his domineering father (Melvyn Douglas), while old feelings of guilt, love, and anger begin to swell and threaten his future plans.

We’ve all had relationships with people like the father figure in I Never Sang for My Father: that stubborn old fool, stuck in his ways, who’s unwilling to give in to anything. The type who doesn’t understand the times, has a particular way of doing everything, and thinks he knows what’s best for everyone. Most of us have felt like the son—harboring feelings of disdain and resentment while simultaneously feeling responsibility and hope that he will someday reciprocate our love. I Never Sang for My Father is a film that understands this family dynamic, and the result is a profoundly moving and honest film that’s highlighted by two wonderful star performances.

Released in 1970, I Never Sang for My Father is a triumph on several levels. The performances are all top-notch, but this is really the story of a father and son. Gene Hackman, who was 40 years old when the film came out, though relatively new to pictures, perfectly conveys all of the emotions that his character goes through. Melvyn Douglas, who was approaching the end of a prolific career, generates the same feelings in us that the Hackman character feels, as he reminds us of that particular person in our own lives. When the two are together alone on the screen (which is often), their rapport is strong, and it feels like a real father-son drama playing out in front of us.

The directing of the film by Gilbert Cates is top-notch as well. He made a number of outstanding stylistic choices, using such techniques as narration, montage, and close-up to bring greater attention to the characters and their story. The dialogue, though heightened, seems natural and real. The result is a realistic and deeply affecting view of an ultimately sad relationship.

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