Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 6, 2008 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics
This self-conscious adaptation of Blake Morrison's memoir tends to keep an audience at a distance though sharply portrayed from an acting and filmmaking point-of-view.
The measured When Did You Last See Your Father? looks at Morrison's difficulties with a rather overwhelming presence in his life. Jim Broadbent (Iris) is the titular philandering man, Arthur.
The film by Anand Tucker, who directed Hilary and Jackie, looks at Blake in various stages of life. Played by Bradley Johnson, Matthew Beard, and mostly Colin Firth (good in Then She Found Me), Blake often used his mouth to propel his way in life.
Juliet Stevenson is Blake's mother who is dutiful to Arthur while he has relations with a family pal (Sarah Lancashire). The adult Blake can't really escape his dad's grip on his life, which really bothers his wife, a solid Gina McKee (Notting Hill).
The viscous direction allows insight into Blake in fine dichotomy to the larger-than-life Arthur who eventually brings the family down to his terms. Tucker also employs nice period flourishes using small-screen coverage to balance the events in Morrison's interesting, if tumultous life.
One notices that Firth has more of a challenge in fully representing his side of Blake as the film pivots dramatically on needing acceptance from a writing accolade. Stevenson maintains a dignity into a woman dealing with the realities of family strife, while Broadbent scores noticeably as the rather unsupportive old man.
Perhaps When Did You See Your Father? pushes too much in a symbolism reflected on its protagonist. Most notably, when often in front of a mirror. The thoughtfulness into Blake's coping with issues is good until it seems to wallow in his own complex emotional state. Still, for its inability to sustain interest due in part to something inexpressible there is something of emotional richness here when it comes to the universality of family.
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