One movie I had been waiting to see for some time, “When Did You Last See Your Father?” is a British movie released onto dvd a couple of weeks ago. It’s the story of a son, Blake Morrison, (played by Colin Firth) who tries to come to understand his relationship with his physician father at the end of his father’s life. His father, played by Jim Broadbent, is dying of cancer. His son tries unsuccessfully to talk and reconcile the anger and the distance between the two men as he looks back over his life.
What struck me was that Blake’s relationship is so similar to so many men’s relationships with their father. Blake’s father never accepted his son’s desire to be a writer, and always encouraged him to pursue a career in his own footsteps as a physician. Blake never felt accepted by his father, and never really knew who his father was, even as he tries to find out near the end of his father’s life.
Blake had to deal with knowing his father was having an affair while he was growing up. He had to absorb the sadness that he saw his mother dealing with, as she hid in the shadows of her adulterous husband. He ultimately had to see his father for what he was in the end, and come to some acceptance about what he was not.
The little moments in the movie highlight an important concept: that we do have those memories of joy with our fathers, and can look back and understand that that is what they had to give. Blake and his father share two memorable scenes in the movie – camping on a rainy night when their tent fills with water, and when his father taught him to drive stick-shift on the beach. The poignancy of the scenes reminded me that, no matter what fathers aren’t, and no matter how they fail to live up to our expectations about what father should be, they are to us what they are. They give what they can give, and in the ways that they are able to.
See this movie, and tell me about your experiences. Share in the comments if you see your father in any different light afterwards. I think you’ll like the movie, and, at least, come to consider your father-son relationship a little differently than before.