A love letter to Robert Downey, Jr’s dad

I often say that it’s the little things that help make the big things. It can pertain to caterpillars becoming butterflies, nobodies becoming somebodies, or independent filmmakers taking their movies to new heights.

To put it bluntly….

Robert Downey, Sr. was the father of Robert Downey, Jr., an independent filmmaker, and an actor with minor roles. “Sr.” is a documentary about his life when he made a name for himself in the Indie film circuit up to this death from Parkinson’s. This took three years to make, one of the reasons being COVID, and yet, it’s a short movie running for about 90 minutes. And yet, it has its own meaning on the words “independent films” and “family.”

The old man’s directing credits include “Balls Bluff,” “Chafed Elbows,” “America,” and “Hugo Pool,” and his acting credits include very small roles in “To Live and Die in LA,” “Johnny Be Good,” “Boogie Nights,” and “Magnolia.” Sometimes, he would be credited as “Robert Downey Sr. ‘A Prince’.”

Don’t go seeing this, and expecting examples from “Iron Man” or “Natural Born Killers” or “Sherlock Holmes” or even that bomb “Dolittle.” This could give a rat’s hat about his son’s blockbusters or bombs; but more about the little things in life. He offers value to the story, especially the way he brings his son in the city to visit his old man. I’ve seen this at the New York Film Festival, and I’ve seen him at its Q&A, but even I knew he is a person with vulnerabilities, and not some actor to be attacked by autograph hounds or “The Memorabilia Squad,” as I like to call them nowadays.

The movie is shot in black-and-white, which reflects on the magic of independent films, while movie clips are provided in color. It’s also filled with a number of big laughs, as well as sentimental and emotional value. It shows us how Jr. stuck by his old man until his death in 2021, how he was inspired by his work, and how these two knew the exact meaning of family.

Not everything is clear in the story, but it does prove itself worthy by taking us to familiar territories and places we’ve never been to before. It’s refreshing to see such a small time film having a big heart. It knows when to be honest, when to be funny, and when to be serious, and believe me there are tearjerking moments.

Netflix has the good sense to buy “Sr,” because of how it presents documentaries that are about people and their challenges in life. Director Chris Smith presents this doc with enough love and nostalgia to keep movie-goers of independent cinemas involved. When father and son stories are about love and spirit, it’s uplifting. And when it’s between Robert Downey, Sr. and Robert Downey, Jr., it’s no different. It’s still emotional and truthful.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

In Select Theaters This Friday

Streaming on Netflix December 2

Categories: Documentary

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