Friday, 24 August 2007

EIFF: And When Did You Last See Your Father? - Review by Robert Duffin

Director: Anand Tucker
Screenwriter: David Nichols
Running Time: 92 mins
EIFF Screenings:
Saturday 25th 19:20 Filmhouse
Sunday 26th 14:45 Filmhouse

No child ever wants a popular parent. “I wish he was my dad” may seem like a compliment, but it’s usually a cringe inducing moment indicative of a parent who gives so much there’s very little left for their own children. This difficult father-son relationship is beautifully observed in Anand Tucker’s film of Blake Morrison’s novel And When Did You Last See Your Father? The male-male platonic relationship has been seriously short changed in cinema, while female friendship has been examined in everything from top drawer productions (Hannah and Her Sisters) to 80s chick flicks (Beaches), it’s rare to ever get a male equivalent. Yet this makes perfect sense, because for this to happen we would have to speak about our feelings, and we all know how that conversation goes.

In the film we follow award winning writer Blake (Colin Firth) who discovers his father Arthur (Jim Broadbent), whom he feels never appreciated him, is dying of cancer and now the clock is running against his hops of an emotional reconciliation. Throughout the film we get flashbacks to child Blake (Bradley Morrison) and teenage Blake (Matthew Beard), charting the ever souring relationship with the man he loves and hates with equal passion. As old Blake becomes ever consumed with his past, he begins to lose sight of his present and is perhaps destined to make the same mistakes as Arthur.

Colin Firth is a little dull as the human dish towel Blake, but both Morrison and Beard give wonderful performances as the younger incarnations. Beard’s scene where he meets the Scottish housekeeper Sandra (Elaine Cassidy) is a perfect comedic moment, and his pairing with Broadbent gives the film a great double act. Broadbent is also fantastic as the ultimate charming bastard; he loves his son but just can’t say it, he loves his wife but just can’t show it, and all the while you love his company.

The ‘problem’ with this film is its evident worthiness. This is the type of BAFTA friendly British film that will do well over seas and garner numerous awards and nominations. It’s an incredibly slick production unlike the edgy and hard hitting critically acclaimed recent movement Brit cinema (London to Brighton, Sugarhouse, Saxon), and as a result many cynics will probably sneer at it. Yet despite all of the above being fundamentally true, this film is a wonderfully written piece with an emotional truth that will affect all. David Nicholls script hits the right notes and the cathartic finale will have you reaching for your mobile so can have a recent answer to the titular question. A great film to catch at Best of the Fest this Sunday, even if the male members of the audience will have to go chop some wood and crush beer cans afterwards.

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