When my weeks-old daughter completely loses it, and I try to calm her down with the shh's and the bounces and the butchered lyrics, I'm reminded of Ian Holm's character in The Sweet Hereafter. Atom Egoyan's film, which he made in 1997 from a Russell Banks novel, has one of the most wrenching portrayals of fatherhood I can think of.
Holm plays a city trial lawyer visiting a tragedy-stricken small town. In flashbacks, he recalls an incident when his infant daughter was bitten by a poisonous spider, and they had to drive several hours to the emergency room to save her. Holm spent the whole way whispering to the girl to keep her calm and her pulse down, to slow the spread of the poison.
Of course, Holm isn't exactly a perfect role model, and there are some other, pretty skanky dads in the movie. And later a couple of years later, another Russell Banks novel got turned into a movie, which dropped the dad average even lower.
Affliction looks like it was shot one angry alcoholic town over from The Sweet Hereafter and it stars Nick Nolte and James Coburn as one of the most caustically destructive father-son duos ever.