When Did You Last See Your Father? is a look back at a tortured relationship between a father and son. The movie, based on the book by Blake Morrison, alternates between childhood memories, adolescent memories, and modern times as an adult.
His father, the ever-outgoing shuckster, continually embarrassed Blake growing up. The father was boisterous, making wise cracks about and playing jokes on his son. Arthur was always flirting and always seeking out the pretty woman wherever they went, which fed Blake’s feelings that his father was unfaithful. This suspicion of infidelity overshadowed everything else he did with his father.
Blake was haunted throughout his life by the infidelities—physical or emotional—that his father engaged in. Auntie Beaty was always around, always visiting their house for Arthur to entertain and lull out of the depression that she suffered. Although Blake’s mother suffered through Arthur’s flirtations, there were arguments in the house, which fed what Blake previously saw and heard.
As an adult, Blake confronts Beaty, who will not admit or deny the relationship as being physical. Blake then asks about her daughter, whether this is his half-sister. Alas, we are not privy to the answer and are left to wonder.
In the end, through the memories, through conversations with others, Arthur becomes more human to Blake and his love for Blake more real. A memory of a hug with his father before heading off to university morphs into a modern-day hug. Arthur and Blake say their good-byes to each other in a tearful embrace in the front lawn of his childhood home after Arthur passed away.
The title of the movie comes from a statement someone said to Arthur when his own father passed away. When was the last time you saw your father? His own relationship with his father was troubled and interaction sparse. At the start of the movie, it is clear that Blake is going down the same path with Arthur. He flits in and out of his parents’ lives, never staying for long, not having much to do with them. But by the end of the movie and the end of Arthur’s life, he was intimately involved.
He questions when the last time was. When did you last see your father? When they burned the coffin, when they put the lid on it, when he exhaled his last breath, when he sat up and said something, when he last recognized you, when he last smiled, the last time he was healthy and active, the last time you had an argument about something? When did you last see your father? When was the last time he was unmistakably him?