Hollywood is constantly telling us that children are a barrier to living the good life. Whether it’s through a sitcom, a raunchy comedy, or another movie or TV show, the point is clear: parenthood is to be postponed in favor of more selfish pursuits. Delivery Man, however, breaks that mold.
Meet David. Irresponsible truck driver for the family business. Illegal parker. Bad boyfriend that disappears for days at a time. Basement pot grower.
Oh, and he also owes $80,000 to some mafia-esque guys. Let’s not forget that.
You get the point. He’s irresponsible to the extreme. A good old-fashioned screw-up. So it’s understandable, then, that when his girlfriend becomes pregnant, she doesn’t want David in the child’s life. David then goes to his friend Brett, a single father who’s been left by his ex with all four kids, who tells him the cliché that we’ve all heard, your life will be over when you have kids. Run from it. Don’t look back. You’re dodging a bullet.
Here’s the twist though—David doesn’t buy it. Even as Brett’s sons disobey his fervent commands to not sleep in the sandbox and his daughter gently taps his cheeks repeatedly to get his attention, David says “I think this is beautiful.”
At that point, the movie got my attention. I’m not used to seeing a Hollywood film say things like this. Things like “A big family may actually be a wonderful thing” and “Kids may really be worth all the things you have to give up to take care of them.”
Then it gets more complicated. David, in his (more) foolish youth, donated to a fertility clinic for a few years (yep, you read that right. A few years), and as a result to some mismanagement on the clinic’s part, he unintentionally fathered 533 children, and 142 of them have sued to find his true identity. There’s a confidentiality agreement, but the plantiffs have question the legality of that document.
All of a sudden, David’s financial problems just had the potential to get a whole lot worse, not to mention his reputation. No sooner has he told the mother of his child that he will get a life and straighten up than a man from the clinic shows up at his house bearing this bad news. So he goes to Brett, who reactivates his license as a lawyer, and gives him a packet of the information of these 142 children, which he’s legally obligated to supply David with. He does so, however, with a stern warning to not open it.
David, still intrigued by this prospect of parenthood, finds that the temptation is too much. He opens it. More than opens it, he covers an entire wall in his house with the profiles of these children, determined to meet all of them, even if he can’t (or won’t) tell them he’s their father. He starts finding them, trying to help them in whatever small ways he can. He watches the coffee shop for Josh so he can go to an audition and fulfil his dream of being an actor. He enthusiastically cheers for Adam while he’s street performing with his guitar.
Even more touching is when he finds his son Ryan at a nursing home, who was born with some sort of serious disability that is never spelled out. He’s unable to speak and is bound to a wheelchair, so naturally, David is a bit uneasy at first. His first day with Ryan, he never speaks to him. He’s just with him. But as the nurse tells him, that’s exactly what Ryan needed.
This is very representative of what the movie is about. It’s about becoming an involved father. David tells Brett that he’s found it’s impossible to be a father to 533 children, but he can be, in a sense, their guardian angel. Brett mocks him for this, but as the audience, we’re supposed to find it sweet and loving. And it is.
But finding ways to help his children doesn’t necessarily equate responsibility. And when the mafia debt collectors come knocking at his door, even threatening his family if he doesn’t pay up, he relents and allows Brett to file for a countersuit, which would pay his debt off. Meanwhile, he deals with the shame of not owning up, while Emma accepts him as a “father on probation,” finally willing to let him in their child’s life. It’s a complicated situation.
In the end, however, David does the right thing. As he says later in the movie, it’s hard to do the right thing. But that’s really what fatherhood is about. Doing the right thing for your children, no matter how hard it may be. One of the film’s more powerful moments also comes in the form of a monologue from one the kids, talking about what it was like to grow up without a dad, and why he wants to know who his biological father is. This film, more than any other recent Hollywood film, really approaches the damages that are dealt to fatherless children.
That’s not to say, however, that the film is without its problems. There’s a decent amount of profanity, as well as some homosexual references, and the fact that David and Emma are going to be living together. But the latter of those is somewhat dealt with by the end, and this message is, in my opinion, worth sifting through some of the problematic elements. In fact, even Brett appreciates his children by the end of the movie.
More than secular parenting movies preceding it, Delivery Man has the potential to inspire fathers to be caring and involved in their children’s lives, whether their children be famous basketball players, vegetarians, poor musicians, heroin addicts, or seriously disabled.