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Gerard Butler and Gretchen Mol play a married couple in the film A Family Man (category IIA), directed by Mark Williams.

ReviewFilm review: A Family Man – Gerard Butler navigates a sea of sentimental clichés

Butler, Willem Dafoe and Alison Brie do their best to try and keep the clichéd film afloat, but in the end even the look of the film’s urban landscape outshines the storyline

Film reviews

2/5 stars

A ruthless headhunter must choose between his career and his family in the directorial debut from veteran producer Mark Williams. Gerard Butler is given a rare opportunity to show some dramatic range, but despite his best efforts, A Family Man remains a cliched and painfully by-the-numbers offering.

Dane Jensen (Butler) is a few months away from promotion at a successful Chicago recruitment firm, provided he finishes the year ahead of his rival, Lynn (Alison Brie). Balancing work and family has always been a strain for Jensen, but when his son (Max Jenkins) is diagnosed with leukaemia, he is faced with an impossible ultimatum.

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The film struggles to reconcile the Wall Street vibe of its boiler room scenes with Jensen’s efforts to appease his stressed-out wife (Gretchen Mol) and reconnect with his dying child. The script is a tonal hotchpotch, much like screenwriter Bill Dubuque’s previous effort The Accountant , but Butler somehow manages to find an emotional through-line.

Gerard Butler and Alison Brie in A Family Man.

Plausible as both a duplicitous dealmaker and failing family man, the actor guides Jensen through a sea of cliched introspection with commendable skill. The film also picks up whenever Alfred Molina’s desperate client is on screen, though that isn’t nearly often enough. In fact, the entire cast, which also includes Willem Dafoe as Jensen’s boss, is uniformly better than the often wince-inducing material.

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As some small respite, architecture fans will delight at A Family Man’s appreciation of Chicago’s urban landscape – although, when a film’s scenery outshines everything else onscreen, one has to question why it really exists at all.

A Family Man opens on June 22, with preview screenings starting June 17