Friday, October 05, 2007

AND WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? is too thin for its run-time and performances

AND WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? is a low-budget British film based on an autobiography by poet Blake Morrison, adapted for the screen by David Nicholls of STARTER FOR TEN infamy. I'm sad to say that this movie is another rung in the downward trajectory of director Anand Tucker's career. I think this is because with every film he narrows his view-finder. In HILLARY AND JACKIE he had a story so twisted, iconic and passionate that it stood up to outstanding performances from Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths, David Morrissey and James Frain. SHOPGIRL was beautifully shot and acted but felt very slight and narcissistic. And here we have another ninety minute film that is beautiful shot and (with the exception of the immobile Colin Firth) handsomely acted but still feels as if it has been stretched beyond its natural life.

Colin Firth plays a middle-aged man who has to confront his difficult relationship with his dying father, played by Jim Broadbent. The dad is a fantastic character: he's one of those larger than life characters that are fun to be around but sometimes crowd out a genuinely close emotional relationship. Jim Broadbent is an absolute joy to watch in the role. Juliet Stevenson plays his loving but sometimes ill-used wife and gives another great performance. There is a scene where she learns of her husband's death where we see her shaking with grief, her back to us, and it's simply brilliant. Colin Firth is passive and unresponsive as the son - a real hole in the middle of the film. As a result, I found myself empathising more with the teenage Blake Morrison of the extensive flashbacks, played with sensitivity by Matthew Beard.

Overall, this isn't a bad film. Apart from anything, it's lovely to see such sombre material leavened with some wicked black humour. I just thought that it could've done with a shorter run-time and a little less forced profundity. Fundamentally, your own childhood memories, much like your own dreams, are of interest to no-one but yourself.

AND WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? played Toronto 2007 and is currently on release in the UK. It opens in the US in February 2008.

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