When Did you Last See Your Father?

Directed by Anand Tucker with the same intelligent tact he brought to Hilary and Jackie, and cleanly adapted by David Nicholls from a brutally frank memoir by British writer Blake Morrison, this minor pleasure of a drama about an aggrieved son (Colin Firth in the Blake role) re-evaluating his relationship with his cantankerous old sod of a dying father (Jim Broadbent as Arthur Morrison) is the kind of superior middlebrow filmmaking at which the Brits excel. Excellent team-player acting from the likes of Juliet Stevenson as the put-upon wife and Sarah Lancashire as the reflexively carnal other woman rounds out Broadbent’s characteristically elastic performance as a father more heedless than cruel. But the star is gangly young Matthew Beard, who gives a wonderfully precise reading of the teenage Blake, trapped in a morass of self-righteous arrogance and confusion, yet woefully lacking the experience to fill in the bigger picture. Arthur Morrison’s death is as graphically physical, as comically banal, and, finally for Blake, as profound as life itself. The scattering of the ashes allows Arthur’s family to celebrate the dead by remembering what a cheap bastard dad was, and allows Blake to move on from his Big Sulk.
June 13-20, 2008

 
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