A Voyage Round My Father takes place in the mid-20th century; World War II is being fought somewhere off-screen. The focus is on the relationship between father and son; other characters are mere satellites. Father is eccentric and opinionated; son seems to live in his shadow, not speaking much at all (when he does, he seems to be quoting dad). The son becomes a lawyer because it would please his father; throughout his adult life, he is seen with his family mostly, as though he didn’t exist outside their home. There is an oddness to the whole thing; although there is an occasional edginess between father and daughter-in-law, there is no real conflict and the movie is engaging only in rare moments.
This peculiar film is a character study of the father, whom we never get to know because he is so closed. I’d once read a review of the London production of the stage play in which the reviewer wrote that there was a reason it is called A Voyage Round My Father and not A Voyage into My Father. This is an insightful interpretation; the father, when not in court, was reclusive. When forced to interact with people, he used words to keep them at bay, always discouraging closeness or familiarity.
Although the plot, in its most basic form, is “a family lived then someone died,” the film is entertaining because the characters are interesting and unpredictable. A Voyage Round My Father is a loving memory, a son’s farewell to his father.
Extras included on the DVD are biographies of John Mortimer, Alan Bates, and Laurence Oliver. Look for it on April 27.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent A Voyage Round My Father? Yes, rent. I liked it, but one viewing was enough.