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When Did You Last See Your Father
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Reviewed on 2008-07-09
Received[3]  out of 4 stars

The question raised by the title should trigger contemplation and reflection of your own patriarchal role models. If you were born in the mid-1950s or before, the odds are that your dad has passed away, leaving behind a treasure trove of memories.

This small cinematic gem is a warm and loving tribute to the special relationship between a father and son. The screenplay is based on the best-selling memoirs of Blake Morrison. The novel arose out of diary that he kept to cope with his father’s terminal illness and impending death.

Two of Britain’s leading actors, Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth, take turns in the spotlight as the father Arthur and the son Blake. Firth also serves as the narrator.

Broadbent and Firth are rarely on camera together. The movie alternates between the present set in 1989 and two significant past episodes when Blake was ages 8 and 14.

Both of Blake’s parents were doctors in the same medical practice in Yorkshire Dales, England. As a child, he thought of his father as “infallible, invincible and even immortal.” He resented his dad for never giving him any encouragement and didn’t like being called “fathead.”

His father always wanted to be the life of the party and the center of attention. Blake seemed to exist in the shadows suffering from embarrassment and humiliation. He suspected his dad had an affair and caught him in several lies.

The movie points out that life takes on a different perspective when looking backwards through the rear-view mirror. It is sad and depressing watching Arthur slip away from cancer. This is balanced out by the upbeat coming-of-age flashbacks that fondly recall a camping trip, learning to drive, shyness around the opposite sex and the loss of virginity to a first love. You will learn why he referred to his papa as the “sex police.” The movie makes it clear how much his father loved him. Broadbent shines brightly, showing off his acting chops in both sickness and health. Firth holds his own but has to share the role with two younger actors.

The magnificent performances of this dynamic duo deserve year-end awards consideration. The personal and intimate moments are enhanced by a lovely score of classical music selections.

The movie was released in early June on both coasts to coincide with Father’s Day weekend. It has thankfully arrived in our area and provides a meaningful afterglow that lights a path to a better understanding of our own irreplaceable and dearly missed fathers.

Opening exclusively at AMC Studio 30 and the Tivoli.

Review by Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"


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