There’s nothing less punk rock than changing a smelly diaper.
The new documentary “The Other F Word” shows what happens when some of the biggest punk rockers around are confronted with fatherhood. It’s not what they teach you at Rock School, but being a daddy might just be the best thing that ever happened to the tattooed rockers in this heartfelt feature.
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The film only grazes past a few nagging questions, most notably whether becoming a neo-Ward Cleaver debunks those anarchist rock anthems. This “Word” rings true whenever it shows how the parental bonds are even mightier than the need to rock.
“The Other F Word” interviews a wide array of musicians from the punk rock landscape, from ex-Black Flag singer Ron Reyes to Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus. The documentary’s main subject is Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg, a soft-spoken father of three trying to balance his punk rock duties with the demands of fatherhood.
Lindberg isn’t as old as geriatric rockers like Mick Jagger and Roger Daltrey, but he still has to dye his goatee jet black and deal with missing parent-teacher conferences due to touring conflicts. Something has to give, but coming to that decision won’t be easy.
“The Other F Word” scores as an undiluted look at the modern rock tour. We don’t see a gaggle of groupies lining up to keep our rock gods company. Instead, we watch Lindberg and his mates settle into three star hotels and foul-smelling tour buses. The only way to stay in touch with their loved ones is via Skype-like devices, but watching a flickering image of your children hardly makes one Parent of the Year.
Few rock documentaries nail the finer details of the touring musician with such elegant strokes.
The rest of the film involves touching footage of fathers spending quality time with their wee ones or using their talents to sing their kids to sleep. The film gently milks the humor found in seeing heavily pierced men putting their public selves aside to play with their kids. There’s a reason why these punk rockers put their music on hold to be good daddies. Most of them didn’t have fathers themselves, or some had the kind you wouldn’t wish on an enemy. The ache in their hearts won’t let them abandon their children. Flea, the manic bassist of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, tears up while describing his own dysfunctional family.
And, in the film’s most touching sequence, we watch Everclear’s Art Alexakis sing a solo version of “Father of Mine” while staring defiantly into the camera.
“Daddy gave me a name, then he walked away,” he sings, looking like the same little boy hurt so many years ago.
The documentary briefly explores how the artists abandon their quasi-anarchist mantra to maintain a roof over their families’ heads. One wishes writer/director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins pushed her subjects harder here, but her delicate touch elsewhere is so rewarding it’s hard to blame her for that approach.
“The Other F Word” shows grown men who dedicated their professional lives to defying authority putting that aside to raise the best kids possible. It’s the kind of family values both the left and right can embrace, and it’s a powerful tribute to the role dads play in their children’s lives.