My Father And Me

****

Reviewed by: Mateusz Tarwacki

Maurice Broomfield at work in My Father And Me
"An intimate story of a relationship between a son and his father, a personal documentary, therapeutic session and a memento for British history."

Maurice Broomfield died at the age of 94 in 2010. Less than a decade later, his son, filmmaker Nick Broomfield, issues his father a memorial in the form of a personal documentary. But My Father And Me is not only a chronicle of Nick's relationship with his father, a story of one artist against another, but also a genealogical family archive, a record of the evolution of the relationship between two generations. A seemingly intimate, closed story takes on a universal, psychotherapeutic dimension – after all, parents are one of the most influential factors in every man's life, and the relationship with them evolves and changes with age. The British documentary filmmaker records this long change.

Maurice became famous as a photographer of big industry. His post-war photographs of factory spaces were filled with love for workers, monumental metal beauty of huge industrial structures and optimism, so unique to the world of post-war ruins. The idealistic, romantic approach to the future and pride in simple roots contrasted with the son's realistic approach and attitude to work. The long-term relationship has gone through ups and downs – from conflict, through acceptance, to understanding, support and mutual complementation of each other and their work. Nick is not afraid of his emotions when he shows how difficult the relationship with his parents was and how hard it was to learn to respect each other.

My Father And Me is also a mosaic of colourful characters surrounding the title duo: a mother-communist who always took Nick's side, a grandfather who saw with his own eyes the nightmare of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, who as a soldier of the British army took part in its liberation, or the uncle who travelled with David Attenborough. The richness of characters makes one think that the film is much more than a family chronicle. It is a picture of a nation rebuilding itself after the war, of the clash of generations, ideologies and visions of different people being able to mature and build a common future.

Although the use of family archives may be associated with a lazy American documentary style in which old VHS tapes are alternately montaged with talking heads, Broomfield tries to use his materials creatively, for example by combining audio recordings of his father's voice with photographs, intelligently using these memories rather than filling holes in the narrative with them.

Broomfield approaches his memories without shame, but this longing, tender, epitaphic overtone of the film means that the swollen emotions will not be defused. It's hard, of course, to keep distance with such a personal work, but probably just as difficult for the viewers to play the role of a psychotherapist. My Father And Me is undoubtedly a work that is rich in contexts, a memento not only for Maurice Broomfield, but also for a large chunk of British history. And above all, a reminder that there are no parents who don't make mistakes.

Reviewed on: 19 Mar 2021
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My Father And Me packshot
The filmmaker charts his relationship with his humanist-pacifist father, Maurice Broomfield, a factory worker turned photographer.

Director: Nick Broomfield

Year: 2019

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

New York 2019

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