And When Did You Last See Your Father?
Review by Jack Foley
AND When Did You Last See Your Father? may be a tearjerker in the classic sense but it’s also one of the most positive and uplifting films of the year.
Based on the best-selling novel by Blake Morrison, it’s a touching, sometimes painful and yet often amusing examination of a son’s relationship with his father through the years.
The soul searching begins as Blake (Colin Firth) is called to look after his ailing father Arthur (Jim Broadbent) during his final days, and takes in childhood, adolescence (as experienced by newcomer Matthew Beard) and adult life.
Arthur is a charismatic yet domineering man who’s desire to take centre stage often dwarfed those around him, whether it’s his wife (Juliet Stevenson) or son at the crucial moments in his formative years.
And yet a strong family bond exists that is difficult to explain, and which leaves many issues unresolved as Arthur reaches his final days.
Much like Morrison’s novel, Anand Tucker’s film is unflinching in its depiction of life and death. It’s brutally honest, frequently insightful and will probably prompt a great deal of personal soul-searching with anyone who sees it.
Yet anyone expected a heavy-handed movie that wallows in depression had better think again, for there’s much to laugh at and admire.
Tucker weaves a lot of humour into the early father-son relationship (most notably during a disastrous camping trip and a wonderful seaside driving lesson) and genuine authenticity into the scenes between Firth and Broadbent in adult life (at an awards presentation, or while fixing a light).
He even manages to avoid the need for an overly dramatic death scene, opting instead to drop the really tearjerking scene at a time when you might least be expecting it.
He also draws terrific performances from an excellent cast. Broadbent shines as ever, mixing stubborn bravado with genuine affection, while Firth is nicely understated as the adult Blake Morrison, giving a quiet but emotionally complex portrayal.
Matthew Beard also proves himself to be a fine young actor as the teenage Blake, Juliet Stevenson is excellent as the long-suffering Kim Morrison and former Coronation Street star Sarah Lancashire enjoys one particularly outstanding moment as Arthur’s possible mistress.
The most life-affirming aspect of the film, however, is the way in which it enables you to confront your own relationships with those you love and maybe, just maybe, start addressing any important issues.
Running time: 92mins