The world of divorce is a messy and complicated separation of two people who were once in love but for no one is the pain more present and intense than for the children this action effects. This is the main theme behind the 1993 comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. Mrs. Doubtfire centers on Daniel Hillard who loses his job and his marriage in a single day. Daniel is destroyed because he loves his children and can’t be with them because he doesn’t have a job or a stable place to live. He ends up finding work at a tv station as a packaging assistant but he longs to be with his children. Miranda, his wife, decides to hire a housekeeper to look after the children when they come home from school as well as prepare dinner when Miranda returns home from work. Daniel decides that the only way to see his children more often is to be hired as that housekeeper. Daniel enlists the help of his brother and a friend to disguise him as the perfect babysitter, Mrs. Doubtfire.
Mrs. Doubtfire is a timeless classic because it is a coherent and touching discussion on the effects divorce can have on children. Robin Williams cultivates two distinct personalities as Daniel and Mrs. Doubtfire. When Robin is Daniel he is a lovable screw up you can’t help but root for and sympathize with. When Robin is Mrs. Doubtfire he is nurturing, attentive and affectionate. This film works because the personalities of both of Robin Williams characters never become one distinct personality. Sally Field does some of her best work as Miranda Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. She is the very definition of a working mother. She is firm and combative but also visibly uncomfortable in her own skin. She has her own journey throughout the divorce. We watch her let go of one love and ask herself how she may attempt to find another. This adds a level of slight depth that prevents the film from becoming too predictable or silly.
The story behind Mrs. Doubtfire would not work if it were not for the child actors hired to play Daniel and Miranda’s children. While every child is loosely defined by one particular personality trait, each of them has their own special connection with their father. Lydia is the rebellious preteen who doesn’t understand why the family dynamic has to change. Chris, the younger brother is the athletic member of the family. Natalie is the small wide eyed child who is still trying to comprehend why daddy doesn’t live at home anymore. This film is carefully directed by Chris Columbus who would go on to direct other family films like Home Alone 2, Bicentennial Man, and the first two Harry Potter films.
Mrs. Doubtfire works because it sets out to help children understand divorce through an English nanny. This last monologue of Mrs. Doubtfire carefully and respectfully emphasizes the film’s theme and makes the film timeless.
“Oh, my dear Katie.
You know, some parents get along much better when they don’t live together. They don’t fight all the time and they can become better people. Much better mommies and daddies for you. And sometimes they get back together. And sometimes they don’t, dear. And if they don’t, don’t blame yourself. Just because they don’t love each other
doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy, or two families. Some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents,
and some children live with foster parents. Some live in separate homes and neighborhoods in different areas of the country. They may not see each other for days, weeks, months or even years at a time. But if there’s love, dear those are the ties that bind. And you’ll have a family in your heart forever.” This films shows audiences love is all you need.