And When Did You Last See Your Father?
Published Oct 9 2007, 00:39 BST | By Daniel Saney Director:
Jim Broadbent, Colin Firth, Juliet Stevenson, Matthew Beard, Sarah Lancashire Running time:
92 mins Certificate:
Based on the 1993 autobiographical novel by Blake Morrison, And When Did You Last See Your Father?
chronicles Blake's (Firth) attempts to find closure with his father in the latter's final days. Though the father-son relationship is hardly untrodden ground, some winning performances make it an emotional and rewarding journey.Father
opens in a summer in the late 1950s, a time in which Blake admires his opportunistic father Arthur (Broadbent). Cutting to the film's present day, 1989, we find Blake as an award-winning writer/poet living in London, though this success seems on the surface to have made little impression on his headstrong dad.
It's not long before Arthur is diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer, prompting a reluctant Blake to come to terms with their family's history and attempt a reconciliation with his father before it is too late.And When Did You Last See Your Father?
doesn't trouble itself with any recognisable chronological structure, instead flitting between three periods. From the relative happiness of Blake's ignorant childhood, unaware of the relevance of his auntie Beaty (Lancashire) and father's backseat huddling, we are transported to his awkward adolescence. Played by Matthew Beard, who makes his feature film debut, we are taken through the memories causing Blake's resentment, which nevertheless frequently prove hilarious to the audience.
Beard is a joy to watch as he flounders in his attempts to chat up the au pair, and then a holiday rep as his progress is hindered at every step by his attention-attracting father. Though at first he merely feels embarrassment at Arthur's well-meaning attempts at filial bonding, Blake soon discovers more valid reasons for true resentment – a development well captured by Beard. Meanwhile, Firth's reserved performance is also effective in making real the practiced disdain that Blake has come to feel for his father whose traits and mistakes can be recognised in himself (as reinforced by a number of mirror-gazing scenes). However, audiences could probably do without being haunted by memories of Firth "fondly remembering" a former love in the bathtub.
The versatile Jim Broadbent is a wonderful piece of casting, allowing his character to win us over in spite of his imperfections. He excels at the younger, vivacious Arthur as well as demanding pity as the ailing, older one, striking up good chemistry with Firth, and even more so Beard.
A well-cast and well-scripted movie, Father
's examination of a love/hate, admiration/disdain relationship has a universally affecting emotional core to which everyone will relate.