When Did You Last See Your Father? Review

by Steve Rhodes (steve DOT rhodes AT internetreviews DOT com)
June 13th, 2008

A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2008 Steve Rhodes

RATING (0 TO ****): *** 1/2

"Stupid really," Blake (Colin Firth) says to his wife Kathy (Gina McKee) over the phone from the house of his dying father Arthur (Jim Broadbent). "You spend your whole life trying to avoid talking to someone, and, when you want to, it's almost too late."

Very sad and very good, WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? features an ensemble cast, telling a "true story" in carefully understated and always completely genuine ways. Director Anand Tucker (HILARY AND JACKIE) masterfully crafts every scene with just the right blend of pathos and love.
Blake and his father were always very close and spent many outings together, but their relationship is decidedly one way, since his father is so boisterous and domineering. Still, Blake is in awe of him, as can be seen in one of the flashbacks when Blake is about five. Blake's big, adoring eyes say it all.

But most of the time, especially when Blake becomes a teenager, he finds his relationship with his father very strained and uncomfortable. Arthur, a country doctor, can't understand why his son doesn't want to pursue a lucrative profession, say as a doctor or a scientist. A constant bookworm, Blake goes off to the university to study English, following his dream to be a writer and a poet.

Although Blake ridicules his father for never having finished a book, Blake just wishes his father would utter two words to him sometime -- "well done." What troubles Blake most is all of the affairs he has always suspected his father of having, but it isn't clear if his dad ever does much more than flirting. What is for sure is that Arthur adores his wife Kim (Juliet Stevenson). But, when a fetching Scottish lass named Sandra (Elaine Cassidy) comes to be a live-in housekeeper, both Arthur and the then teenage Blake clearly have eyes for her.

Filmed with a golden autumnal glow and scored with dreamy period music, the film is a real treat for all of your senses. It is also quite poignant, with one of the best small scenes coming when the grown-up Blake has come to stay with his father as he is dying of cancer. As Blake walks by his parent's bedroom, he looks in to see them both asleep in bed, laid out much like two corpses at a funeral home.

His father is bossy and excessively confident, but Blake loves him anyway, and, for all of his father's faults, Blake is not ready to let him go. You'll have trouble letting the movie go too, since the characters are those you grow to care about dearly.

WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? runs a fast 1:32. It is rated PG-13 for "sexual content, thematic material and brief strong language" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.

The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, June 13, 2008. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC theaters, the Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.

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