In German director Doris Dorrie’s Cherry Blossoms, a parent experiences the bereavement in its own way, of no longer recognizing in one’s adult offspring the young children they once were. The autobiographical family drama When Did You Last See Your Father? bears the solemn weight of a similar theme, the involuntary role reversal of adult children finding themselves through no desire of their own, as peers and nurturers to parents, even as a lifetime of resentments hang in the air.
Directed by Anand Tucker (Shopgirl, Hilary And Jackie) and adapted by David Nicholls from the memoir of writer Blake Morrison, When Did You Last See Your Father? is a compilation of present times and childhood flashbacks in the life of Blake (Colin Firth). He’s a successful, award-winning British poet who has always been a disappointment to his denigrating physician dad, Arthur (Jim Broadbent).
A cocky manipulator and womanizer, Arthur seems to merely tolerate his son (played as a tortured adolescent by Matthew Beard), while his devoted but unhappy wife Kim (Juliet Stevenson) endures his infidelity and brash public behavior in silence. And as an adult, Blake seems unable to leave behind lingering childhood grudges against his father, which ignite when he’s faced with the terminal illness of his now elderly parent.
When Did You Last See Your Father? deals with grim subject matter touching on the difficulty of facing the flaws of instinctively idealized parents that few children are willing or able to confront. The film delicately weaves this often excruciating emotional turmoil through a brooding tale, with little dramatic relief.
And left unexplored though with much curiosity raised, is how such a childish man assumed the enormous responsibilities of being a doctor, or the way in which Blake’s dysfunctional father eventually impacted on his son’s relationship with his own children. A keen and candid subjective scrutiny of parenting through the eyes of a damaged offspring, but an insular perspective that rarely ventures outside those long festering psychological wounds.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Features: Commentary With Director Anand Tucker; Deleted Scenes.