And When Did You Last See Your Father? (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Blake Morrison's 1993 memoir of his vexed relationship with his father and the old man's eventual death from cancer was the spearhead in a new genre of confessional writing. The book has now passed into the reliable hands of screenwriter David Nicholls and director Anand Tucker, who between them have finessed Morrison's pained intimacies into a deeply affectionate film.

Flitting back and forth between the adult Blake (Colin Firth) and his younger self in the 1960s (played by Matthew Beard), the film is part tribute, part inquisition into the character of Arthur Morrison, bumptious Yorkshire doctor, jovial family man and suspected philanderer. Tucker's gliding, sinuous camerawork is beautiful, both in its corner-of-the-eye watchfulness and its hints of turmoil beneath the British reserve; this is a film-maker who knows exactly what he's doing.

It's a great song of innocence and embarrassment, with a lively, gregarious performance at its centre by Jim Broadbent as Arthur and a quieter but no less effective one by debutant Beard. Indeed, one might argue that the weak link is the housewife's favourite (and box-office banker) Firth, whose emotional range – repressed, unsmiling Britishness – seems to get narrower by the year. That might be precisely what the part requires, in which case he's well chosen – but he's not much as fun to watch as the other two. A palpable hit nonetheless.

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