June 6 (Bloomberg) -- ``When Did You Last See Your Father?'' is the screen version of British poet and author Blake Morrison's bestselling memoirs, focusing on his conflicted relationship with his dying father. It's a moving and beautifully shot story whose sentimentality rarely swerves into self-indulgence.
An early scene takes place in the late 1980s with Blake (Colin Firth) receiving a prestigious award for a recently published book of poems; his father quickly boasts about never having read the rubbish and loudly laments the fact his son didn't follow in his footsteps by becoming a money-spinning physician.
Shortly afterward, we learn of dad's impending death, and the rest of the film jumps from his father's hospital bedside to Blake's boyhood memories from the 1950s and 1960s. Alternately moving and embarrassing, the flashbacks are nearly all intensely emotional.
Jim Broadbent plays Arthur Morrison, an English-countryside doctor whose bluster brings out an offensive paternal gusto. He's the dad who gets his jollies by referring to his son as ``Fathead'' rather than acknowledging him as the literary wunderkind he is.
Much of Blake's unresolved hatred for Arthur comes from the years he spent parading his mistress in front of the family, and particularly Blake's mother (Juliet Stevenson). However, Arthur woos us just as he woos his family, by endearing us with his imperfections.
Firth gives a typically pensive performance; he has the potent ability to wordlessly convey inner conflict and agony. Matthew Beard, who plays the young Blake, shares Firth's ability to express a quiet, subtle intelligence but also does well as a rebellious and angst-ridden teen. In the end, however, they're both upstaged by the boisterous and improbably lovable Broadbent.