Dad (1989) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • John's mom has a heart attack and ends in hospital. John flies home to take care of his dad, teaching him to do things around the house, spends time with him and shows him how to live again without mom's control. John's son joins them.

  • A busy, "always-on-the-run" executive learns during a meeting that his mother may be dying and rushes home to her side. He ends up being his father's caretaker and becomes closer to him than ever before. In the process, he teaches his father to be more independent which causes problems with the man's wife. Estranged from his own son, the executive comes to realize what has been missing in his own life.

  • Successful businessman has to take care of his father after his mother has fallen victim to a heart attack. Although they've become estranged to each other, they finally succeed in coming together again.

  • An overworked business type, rushes home to be with his father after his mother has a heart attack. He helps his dad learn to live more independently and this ends up affecting the estranged relationship he has with his college aged son.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Jake (age 78) is woken up by his wife Bette, who puts out his clothes for the day, helps him with his breakfast, and takes him grocery shopping. At the store, Bette has a heart attack.

    While their son John is busy with his business dealings he gets a call from his sister Annie about their mother.

    John visits Bette at the hospital, who is worried about how Jake is getting along.

    John and Annie visit Jake at the family home. Jake's senility limits his comprehension of Bette's situation.

    Annie explains to John how regimented Jake's daily routine has become with Bette, and asks him to help. John is dismayed about their father's mental decline, needing to help him get dressed for bed.

    The next day, John tries to explain to Jake how Bette is now limited and that he will need to help himself more. John starts to explain how to do laundry, then ends up taking the clothes to a cleaner.

    John diligently makes up instruction cards for Jake to do household chores like the dishes, making beds, and vacuuming. After cleaning the house, the duo go to a bingo hall, where Jake's old friends update him on the many who have died. They return home in a good mood, having won some stuffed animals.

    John takes Jake to the hospital to visit Bette, and Annie expresses how relieved she is that Jake is doing well. Bette expresses concern about Jake eating well.

    John takes Jake to a business meeting, where Jake suspects a client is lying. John later explains that his business is shutting down companies to exploit their remaining assets, which Jake finds perplexing, especially since he worked in aviation manufacturing. Jake explains that he was a worker, while John is a boss.

    John takes Jake to get a new driver's license for the first time in years.

    They throw a baseball out on the front lawn.

    John's estranged son Billy shows up from college, and he works with Jake in his backyard greenhouse. Jake has a memory of the entire family being together many years earlier, although he seems to have four children.

    Bette returns from the hospital and the family has dinner together at home.

    Billy tells John that he's thinking of not returning to college and may want to live in Mexico for a while.

    Jake sees blood in his urine and John takes him to a doctor, who explains his situation is serious. John lies and tells Jake the opposite, as he does with Bette.

    As Jake is waiting for surgery the next day, he asks John to hug him. After the procedure, the doctor tells John that his father has bladder cancer. John goes home and tries to lie to Bette, who suspects that Jake has cancer.

    The family visits Jake at the hospital, but he goes into shock after the doctor tells him he has cancer, which petrifies him. John complains to the hospital administrator.

    John and Annie bring Billy to visit Jake, but he has fallen into a stupor.

    John continues to get mad at the doctors, who try to explain that Jake is suffering from depression. The doctors say Jake is beyond medical care, infuriating John, who impulsively carries his father out of the hospital. Billy offers to help care for Jake, but John tells him he's in the way.

    John brings Jake home, but he has clearly diminished capacity. John tries to help him eat while Annie takes Bette to her house. Jake envisions that he is back on the farm he owned as a young man (again with four children), and John continues to stoically help him.

    Later that night, John is shocked to find Jake hiding under his bed, and he struggles to help him.

    John takes his father back to the hospital, where the administrator speaks to him sympathetically, and offers him the help of a different doctor. He diagnoses that Jake has had a seizure and become comatose. John decides that he will move into the hospital room with Jake, helping to care for him over the succeeding days while he tends to his own business matters when he can.

    Annie and John talk about why he can't accept that Jake will soon die. John explains that their father did his job and cared for them every day, while he grew up and left the family for his business; now he owes his father his care.

    John finds Billy at Jake's bedside. He has stayed in town secretly to try helping.

    Jake wakes up the next morning speaking lucidly, wondering why he is there. His new doctor is impressed with his remarkable recovery, and theorizes that the fear of death caused his coma, but adds that John's love and care may have provided the real cure.

    John and Billy take Jake shopping along Venice Beach for wild new clothes, which they model for Bette, much to her amusement.

    Jake's recovery is so complete that Bette wonders if something is actually wrong with him. She tells John that Jake has been delusional, and when John asks him about it, Jake asks a strange question: did he raise four children on a farm in New Jersey and not the two he raised in California?

    A psychologist explains to John that Jake's vision of the farm in New Jersey is a symptom of schizophrenia, a dream that Jake has concocted to make his life feel better. The problem is that he needs the approval of Bette to make the dream complete, or else his mind will deteriorate.

    Bette is reluctant to go along, but under pressure from John they get to know neighbors they previously ignored, and even begin babysitting local kids. Jake has a level of energy and interest that Bette finds bizarre, which includes lots of sex and a sudden interest in Japanese culture.

    Over a family dinner, Bette gets upset and argues with John, slapping him, and prompting Jake to beg them to get along. John tells her that she has been too overbearing; she says that Jake has simply become too alien to her.

    Jake tells Annie that his dream life is his vision of what they could have had, and now he just wants to enjoy dancing with her before he dies. Out in the greenhouse, they quietly dance together.

    John takes Jake to the doctor, who tells him that the cancer has spread to his lymph system, and he does not have long to live.

    John talks sincerely to Billy that night, wanting to know about his time in Mexico. Billy asks why making money was more important to John than family, to which John explains that he liked the power. He tells Billy to be forgiving.

    John visits Jake, now back in the hospital. Jake says he keeps remembering old baseball games and TV shows, and tells John about the 1947 World Series in which Joe DiMaggio was robbed of a homer by an unsung player. John curls up next to his father in the bed, and Jake says that when he looks at John, he knows he must have done something right.

    The family gathers for a reception at the house after Jake's funeral. John and Billy go out to the greenhouse in some of the wild clothes they shared with Jake, and say a tearful goodbye to Jake's memory.

    Annie's husband drives John away from the reception.

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