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written by Kyle Sanders as part of his coverage of the 2019 Chicago International Film Festival
Fatherhood can be hell. While parental responsibilities continue to change in our ever progressing sense of parenthood, the role of the father still tends to be looked upon as a source of security, to provide that "everything will be alright" feeling when the going gets tough. But sometimes even a dad can't guarantee that, because they might not be alright themselves.
The movies have given us plenty of father figures, some good (Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird), and some way, WAY bad (Jack Torrance in The Shining). There are also those who are flawed yet mean well. And at the Chicago International Film Festival, we get two prime examples in Extracurricular (Croatia) and Tremors (Guatemala/France/Luxembourg).
In the opening scene of Extracurricular, we see fumbling hands wrapping up a Barbie-esque doll in wrapping paper meant for a birthday gift, spliced with scenes of children being dropped off at school. Immediately, we understand these gruff-looking hands must belong to a father hastily preparing a gift for his young daughter. Blaring over the sequence is an intense musical score, foreshadowing a situation that's about to erupt.