July 24, 2008

Review: ‘When Did You Last See Your Father?’

By Garrett Conti, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jul. 24--It's perfectly understandable to get emotional at the conclusion of "When Did You Last See Your Father?" A true tear-jerker, this film -- based on a 1993 autobiographical book of the same name by Blake Morrison -- is handled with absolute amounts of tenderness and understanding as it identifies with anyone who's ever had a father.

Director Anand Tucker -- the same fellow responsible for the 2005 hit "Shopgirl" -- puts together a magnificent work stocked with flashbacks and compassionate and cogitative dilemmas felt in the dying days of a parent. Tucker captures the essence of the subject through a superb screenplay by David Nicholls, as well as careful camera work.

Two talented Englishmen -- Jim Broadbent ("Hot Fuzz") and Colin Firth ("Mamma Mia!") -- take center stage in the father-son relationship. As Arthur (Broadbent) nears his demise at the hands of cancer, his son, Blake (Firth), is caught up in a rampant course of emotional distress.

Blake remembers the good and bad of his dad through several flashbacks from young to old. Not the biggest fan of Arthur -- best described as somewhat eccentric and mean, but possessing a solid sense of humor -- Blake discusses his feelings with some old friends and family from the past and comes to the difficult conclusion that he was particularly lucky in his upbringing.

It's this road to realization that makes "When Did You Last See Your Father?" so special.

Broadbent and Firth are on top of their games here. Particularly Broadbent, who carries out his role with an incredible degree of excellence. The film rides on his performance, and makes the story -- particularly, Blake's back-and-forth struggle -- believable.

"When Did You Last See Your Father?" is one of those rare pictures that sets the stage for a bout of self-examination.

--Regent Square Theater


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