Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"It's stupid, really," Blake Morrison tells his wife. "You spend a lifetime trying to avoid talking to someone, and then all of a sudden, it's too late." He has returned to the Yorkshire town where he was born, and where his father is dying. Surely his wife says, this is the right time? His answer: "He's too doped up."
"When Did You Last See Your Father?" is based on a 1990s best seller by Morrison, who redefines the question as, "When did you last really see him?" He arrives at an answer for himself, but we're left realizing that he never did really see his father. He was too blinded by anger, and it is only after his death that he forgives him and sees him as a father, and not as the focus of resentment.
His father is Arthur (Jim Broadbent), who shares a practice with his wife, Kim (Juliet Stevenson), also a doctor. The son is played by Colin Firth, and it is startling in some scenes how much the two men resemble each other. In an opening where Arthur talks their way into reserved seats at a speedway, Blake tells us his father was a charmer who could talk his way into or out of anything.
The old man does it by bluster, expansive cheerfulness, bluff. There's a lot of ground to cover. Blake correctly suspects that Arthur is having an affair with his Auntie Beaty (Sarah Lancashire), and even in later years, Arthur is able to out-charm his son in the pursuit of a woman they both covet. Blake hated his father for treating his mother so badly, although there are few scenes showing son and mother as particularly close. The person he does confide in is his first love, the family's maid, Sandra (Elaine Cassidy).