When Did You Last See Your Father?
A top-drawer British cast (Jim Broadbent, Colin Firth, Juliet Stevenson, Gina McKee) assembles under an adroit director (Anand Tucker, who made Hilary and Jackie and Shopgirl) for a glorified basic-cable male weepie. Based on Blake Morrison's memoir, When Did You Last See Your Father? abruptly introduces successful writer Blake (played as an adult by Firth) and his father, Arthur (Broadbent), an irascible physician, then breaks the news that Arthur is dying of cancer. Blake returns home to help his long-suffering mum (Stevenson) and to try to come to some kind of terms with Arthur; as a series of flashbacks starring Matthew Beard as a teenaged Blake reveal, Arthur's self-absorbed boorishness, infidelity, and lack of traditional fatherly love (his pet name for his son is "Fathead") have infuriated and alienated Blake his entire life. One of the movie's precious few ironies is that Blake is his father's son: He mopily declines to talk to his children when his loving wife (McKee) calls, and spends a little too much time stalking his family's old housekeeper (Elaine Cassidy), with whom he had a teenage fling. But the movie squanders such insights and ambiguities, riding its treacly musical score all the way to the inevitable denouement and a big puddle of scarcely earned last-reel tears.