Eye For Film >> Movies >> And When Did You Last See Your Father? (2007) Film Review
And When Did You Last See Your Father?
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Popular fathers can be hell to live with. People come up to you, kids especially, and say, “You’re so lucky having a dad like that.” But you know it’s not the same at home. Popular dads are excruciatingly embarrassing to their teenage children. All you want is a quiet, generous chap who listens and takes you to football matches and the cinema. You don’t want a life-and-soul-of-the-party because when the party’s over he takes it out on you.
Based on Blake Morrison’s memoir, this is a film about guilt, nostalgia, secrets and lies. It’s also about coming to terms with repressed feelings and engrained bitterness against a man who dominated the household with his energy, bombastic humour and one-size-fits-all attitude to life. His credo was my way, or my way. Those who didn’t join in were cast out into the casualty ward, where Mother (Juliet Stevenson) sat by the window, smoking and having a migraine, and teenage Blake (Matthew Beard) snatched a snog with Sandra (Elaine Cassidy), the Glaswegian maid, upstairs in the servant’s quarter.
Father (Jim Broadbent) is dying of cancer at home in Yorkshire. Blake (Colin Firth), now an award-winning writer, leaves his wife (Gina McKee) and children in London to be there at the end. Coming home brings back a flood of memories, childhood incidents, Aunty Beaty (Sarah Lancashire) and dad in the back seat of the Bentley, camping in the rain and being flooded during the night, overwhelmed with shame as he pulls off a petty scam, usually to do with tickets, getting into places where they weren’t allowed, charming barmaids and gently mocking his son for being riddled with bookworm, going to university to read… English.
“What good is that?!”
The film is predictable, in the sense that no man is a prince to his valet. The boy Blake discovers his father’s failings as he grows up and is hurt by them. His mother has always known, but she is of an older generation where wives were expected to suffer in silence. The old man’s inability to express love, either verbally or physically, towards his children is in no way unusual at that time within that class – Father and Mother were both doctors – but the final struggle to make amends is pushed to the limit of sentimentality by scriptwriter David Nicholls (Starter For Ten) and director Anand Tucker (Hilary And Jackie).
As Broadbent says of Arthur Morrison, “It’s a gift of a part,” which he grasps with both hands, never in danger, or so he hopes, of bringing the house down with the weight of his personality. Firth is the problem. You don’t sense the writer in him, although to be fair, it is a thankless role, responding to others rather than making things happen, and, being Pride And Prejudice’s wet tee shirt winner, there has to be a scene of him naked in the bath, thinking of Sandra, Blake’s first true love. You won’t know the meaning of cringeworthiness until you’ve seen this. The film loses its credibility right there and does not recover.Reviewed on: 22 Aug 2007