When Did You Last See Your Father?

Published: Friday, July 11 2008 12:30 p.m. MDT

Jim Broadbent stars in "When Did You Last See Your Father?"

Giles Keyte, Father Features Limited

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WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? — ** 1/2 — Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent, Juliet Stevenson; rated PG-13 (profanity, sex, vulgarity, slurs, brief drugs, brief gore)

There's a reason why "When Did You Last See Your Father?" works pretty well at times and all right in others. And no, it's not just because the drama is based on British poet and author Blake Morrison's memoirs, which explained his sometimes strained relationship with his late father.

In fact, while this fictionalized version of Morrison's writings does ring true, it's also a little familiar and predictable and does get a little too graphic when it starts recalling some of the specific details.

Luckily, it does have a superb cast. Colin Firth plays Morrison, while Jim Broadbent plays his father, Arthur, a fast-talking physician. They're both excellent and help steer the movie through some rough spots.

Through flashbacks, director Anand Tucker and screenwriter David Nicholls revisit some of the high points and some of the low points in the Morrisons' relationship.

What makes the younger Morrison wistful is his father's dire cancer diagnosis. Arthur has basically gone home to die, with his faithful wife, Kim (Juliet Stevenson), by his side.

Blake is supposed to organize his father's papers but also hopes to obtain information about what seemed like an inappropriate relationship with Blake's nonbiological "aunt" (Sarah Lancashire).

But more than anything else, he feels denigrated and unappreciated by his father and wishes to express that feeling to him.

In a few respects, the younger Morrison is shown to be selfish and a bit of a jerk. And the coming-of-age bits that explore the relationship between the teenage Blake (Matthew Beard) and a family maid are both unnecessary and cringe-worthy.

Still, when Firth and Broadbent share screen time, it's very watchable. Despite their proximity in real-life ages, they're convincing as son and father.

"When Did You Last See Your Father?" is rated PG-13 for strong sexual language (including a couple of uses of the so-called, "R-rated" curse word and some crude sexual talk and innuendo), simulated sex and other sexual contact, derogatory slurs, brief drug use (pharmaceuticals) and scenes depicting underage drinking and smoking, and some brief blood. Running time: 92 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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