It’s a shame the Academy Awards aren’t being held until April 25 next year, because that’s just longer it is until Anthony Hopkins can start polishing his second Oscar.
“The Father” stars Sir Anthony Hopkins as an aging man with dementia, and Olivia Coleman as his daughter. Florian Zeller directs and co-writes a script based off his play of the same name.
Usually I will give the background of a film in my third paragraph, but I just have to start talking about Anthony Hopkins’ performance right away, because wow. A true tour-de-force, Hopkins manages to perfectly portray an individual suffering from memory loss, putting us in the shoes of one as well. His emotions jump from giddy one second to enraged the next, and at times it is not clear if he is faking his memory loss in the moment or actually forgotten how he simply arrived to the middle of a sentence. It is a masterful performance from one of our finest actors, who (outside “The Two Popes” last year) has not done much “serious” acting in recent years. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and bet the house before the end of the year, but it would take an all-time performance to steal Best Actor away from Anthony Hopkins.
Olivia Coleman (who won Best Actress for “The Favouite”) plays Hopkins’ adult daughter, who acts as his main caretaker. Stricken with grief, and seemingly some guilt, for not being able to fully manage her aging father alone, Coleman has us relate to her character in the most brutal of ways.
Florian Zeller’s subtle direction and particular square framing of scenes keep some of the dramatics and intimacies of a stage play, but the apartment that most of the film takes place in feels wide and lived in. Zeller holds the camera on an actor for almost an entire conversation, leaving no room for them to breathe, resulting in raw emotion. In an early scene, Coleman tells Hopkins that she is moving from London to Paris and we see his eyes get progressively saddened as he realizes what that means for him (“and what of me?!”).
The film is told in such a way that it simultaneously makes you feel the frustration of a child trying to cope with or understand a parent with dementia, as well as what it is like to be the one who is suddenly living in a new world seemingly every day. It almost plays out like a horror film at times, because just like Hopkins we are unsure what is real and if the events are happening right now or five years ago.
“The Father” may be simple in its title but it is extremely meticulous in its execution. Gentle but devastating performances across the board make this something special. I have to warn you, as someone with a grandmother who has dealing with dementia for a while now, I have to say this one will hit home for anyone in a situation like this. But that is part of its brilliance and sheer, unfiltered reality. I truly am haunted and blown away right now.
Critics Rating: 9/10