Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg’s documentary opens with statistics about how many African-American kids grow up in fatherless homes, and suggests a correlation with later troubles in life. What unfolds next is an engaging, warts-and-all account of one fatherless boy, who later in life undertakes to understand the issue from the inside out.
Chicago-based rapper and award-wining songwriter Che “Rhymefest” Smith grew up without a dad and, before finding success with music, led a troubled life. Now a father himself and settled down (he recently bought the house his father grew up in), Smith seeks out his father, Brian, whom he hasn’t seen in 20 years; he is hoping for answers and, perhaps, closure. Brian is indeed nearby: an alcoholic living on the street, but an amiable fellow eager to reconnect with his son.
What follows is the messy process of trying to reconcile decades of family dysfunction, the toll of addiction and an assortment of poor decisions, as each man struggles to define (or redefine) the roles of father and son. There are victories and failures, and both Smiths deserve kudos for letting viewers into the challenging process. Family is paramount, but making it work and breaking destructive cycles isn’t nearly as easy as those feel-good TV movies suggest it can be.