2007 - United Kingdom - 92 minutes
Director - Anand Tucker
Writer - David Nicholls from the book by Blake Morrison
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars
At the end of the last conversation I had with my father before he died, he called me a horse’s ass. That conversation was the final topper to a very complicated relationship as my father was a man that I feared as a child and pretty much disliked as an adult. Yet, some of the fondest memories I have of my life involve my father and our times together.
I guess all relationships between fathers and sons could best be described as knotty, but the one shown in this film, I must admit, hit very close to home. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the film as much as I did, and it appears from the comments of viewers and critics that I enjoyed it far more than most viewers.
The basic story, I’m sure, has been repeated countless times throughout history and will be repeated countless times in the future. Blake, a highly successful writer and editor, never received the recognition of “a job well done” from his father. Arthur is a popular physician and raconteur who constantly failed to show his admiration for his son’s profession.
Blake realized at an early age that his father had been having a long-term affair with his aunt, and this knowledge colored every part of their relationship. One thing that Blake cannot understand is why his mother stays married to his father for he is sure that she, also, is aware of her husband’s relationship with her sister.
The story begins in the present, but most of it is told in flashbacks as Arthur is dying. The adult Blake is played by Colin Firth with just the right amount of distance and depression. He is not a happy man because he never has been able to come to terms with his feelings for his father. Teenaged Blake is played beautifully by Matthew Beard. It is this Blake that we see most of in the film, and his performance is impressive.
Juliet Stevenson is a wonderful actress, and she gives this film a strong, quiet - but not necessarily longtime suffering - performance as Blake’s mother. She is one of those women whom you never realize her strength and resourcefulness until push comes to shove.
Jim Broadbent may be a touch over the top as Arthur, but, for me, he hits the nail on the head. We all have public and private faces. Arthur rarely reveals the private one. I found myself liking him in spite of myself.
As I said, this film turned out to be very personal to me. I found myself sometimes being amazed at how much Arthur was like my own father and Blake so much like myself. Even without the personal insight, I think you will find this a rewarding look at the bond between two strong, yet totally different men - OR - the bond between two strong, completely similar men. Fathers and sons - will that connection ever be fully understood?
November 15, 2008