Robert Downey Jr. is undoubtedly one of the biggest movie stars of the 21st century, and while most people can name at least one of his famed roles, there is less known about his father, despite being an acclaimed filmmaker and actor himself, largely in the 1960’s.
The AFI Film Festival, held earlier this month in Los Angeles, brought 4 days of ‘movies that matter’ to audiences, including special Q&A’s to allow those involved to bring more of a voice to what they were presenting to the festival. “Sr.” is one such film, with Downey Jr. in attendance to present his father’s filmmaking career on the big screen, alongside director Chris Smith and producers Kevin Ford and Susan Downey, plus Jon Favreau moderating the discussion.
Downey Jr. admitted it was him that was originally approached to be the focus of the documentary, but felt it more appropriate to honour his father and celebrate his career – a little less known than the mega-star that is probably most known as Iron Man.
“Sr.” Is an intimate and very wholesome look into the Downey family, with much of a focus on the incredible filmmaking history of the patriarch, who they all affectionately call “Senior”. Downey Sr. specialised in films with outrageous satire, minimal budgets and pushing a countercultural agenda – with hilarious results. Throughout the doco we’re treated to little snippets of his films, with belly laughs echoing throughout the theatre.
The unique aspect of this heart-warming documentary is how it lets Sr. take on the job of filmmaking, offering the alternative “Sr. Cut” throughout – which is also wildly different to a typical doco. In saying that, it could always have been the intention of the filmmakers, as Sr. himself is an open book and the stories he and his family tell are all through the genre of film.
The tear-jerking aspect comes in the form of Sr.’s illness, with his Parkinson’s slowly worsening throughout the film. For those who haven’t been privy to what a condition can do to the human body, it’s heart-wrenching to watch but also touching in the way that it shows how close the whole Downey family are, and the souls they keep close also being considered family. It can often be hard to look past the glittery facade of Hollywood, but behind it are normal human beings, with families, and struggles – just like every other person.
“Sr.” will be available on Netflix from December 2nd, and we suggest adding it to your watch-list immediately – it’s a rare opportunity to get a tribute this special, and a delightful insight into a man who would humbly be honoured by the outcome of this gorgeous documentary.
“Sr.” screened at the 2022 AFI Film Festival, Los Angeles.