A review of ďWhen Did You Last See Your Father?Ē by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

 

††††††††† Jim Broadbent is at his brilliant best in this grown-up drama about the oft shaky bonds between fathers and sons.

††††††††† The father in question is tweedy, blustery Arthur (Broadbent), a man who thrives on minor duplicities and cheating his way through life. As a child, his son Blake (Bradley Johnson) admires his dad and even emulates him. As a rebellious teen (Matthew Beard) he resents the hell out of the sanctimonious old sod.

††††††††† Director Anand Tucker pieces together this edgy mood piece with the skill of an expert quilter; a square here and a square there until the whole represents something ample and absolute. A father-son camping trip thatís rife with tension, Blakeís first explorations with the opposite sex, the adult Blake (Colin Firth) coming to terms with the grip that cancer has on the narcissistic man who for better or worse has shaped his existence. Resentment flows hot, dark and deep.

††††††††† Thereís an air of unfinished business about it all and Iím a sucker for loose ends in the name of family dysfunction. Script is shrewd, crafting a poignant yet prickly atmosphere and rendering Arthur both infuriating and sympathetic.

††††††††† But less is more -- Tucker take note. His consistently heavy hand with the arty, self-conscious camerawork distracts from the fluid yet temperamental aura and its inherent, civilized intelligence.

††††††††† Superb English cast is rounded out by Juliet Stevenson as Arthurís long-suffering wife and Gina McKee as Blakeís sensible spouse.

††††††††† A refreshing remedy to the blockbuster summer blues.

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