Monday, 24 September 2007

And When Did You Last See Your Father?

This British gem is a film that impacted me in a way that it will not impact most people and this no doubt influenced how much I enjoyed it. And When Did You Last See Your Father?, directed by Anand Tucker, is a film about a man’s relationship with his dying father (terminal cancer). I saw the film only three weeks after my own father died of cancer and to say I could identify with the protagonist would be an understatement (though I am not comparing my father with the character played by Jim Broadbent).

Colin Firth plays the son, and is the film’s protagonist, but we don’t see that much of Firth because much of the film is taken up in flashbacks of his childhood and teenage years. Through the flashbacks, we see how the son’s perception of his father changes over the years and how Firth, playing the adult son, thinks back on the similarities and differences between his own life and character and that of his father. I won’t say the film handled this perfectly, skipping through some scenes in a way that felt rather superficial, but it cleverly showed how members of a family hide things from each other (and know more than they let on) in order to keep the family from imploding.

The story worked for me, but the real highlight of the film was the acting. Jim Broadbent, who is always a joy to watch, is perfectly cast as the father and does a great job. Juliet Stevenson is also great as his wife, and her role could have been much bigger. Colin Firth is solid as the son, as are the actors who play his younger self.

For me, the timing of when I saw the film was incredible and difficult to describe as coincidence. I can’t imagine any other film coming close to touching so profoundly on what I was processing at the time. As a result, my assessment of the film no doubt carries a particularly heavy subjective weight, but, like I said at the beginning, I think this film is a gem and gets a solid ***+.

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