Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell. Directed by Florian Zeller.
Florian Zeller’s intimate drama The Father manages to be that rarest of films: a surprise. The heaps of praise and mountains of awards nominations levelled at it should hint that it’s a well put together piece, but the film still makes you forget about it as it occurs.
The Father follows Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) a man suffering from the ravages as age, as his world appears to be changing without his control despite the best intentions of his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman).
It’s easy to turn mental disorders and sicknesses into easy cheap narrative tricks, but in the hands of Zeller, this becomes a portrait of a man at the end of his rope. Despite some early staginess – owing to it being based on a stage play by Zeller – the film quickly finds a very cinematic groove that puts you into the head of Anthony and how he feels and acts.
Hopkins, rightfully heaped with awards praise, gives his best performance in years. Not since his turn as Burt Munro in The World’s Fastest Indian has Hopkins offered a performance this layered, nuanced and filled with layers found in true humans. It’s a performance that reminds you why he’s an acting titan and moreover, he makes it look easy. One look into his now deep-set eyes, or a croak of his voice and you feel you have known the character your whole life.
The ring of authenticity is what works about the film; the conversations, the mood swings, the emotional changes that the film goes through will feel true to the experience of people fighting or supporting people fighting dementia.
Olivia Colman hasn’t been this good since Tyrannosaur, and shows why she’s as acclaimed as she is. You get the sense that she doesn’t expect anything from her work except the satisfaction that she’s worked hard to achieve something authentic, and here she achieves that in spades.
The film is not always an easy watch, and the way it plays with time and events may prove a little frustrating for some, but this is not just a stuffy drama about age, this is a horror film about the failings of the mind pretending it’s an awards film, and it pays off. The film is one that will stay with you long after Hopkins has delivered a final scene worth remembering for years to come.
It’s the right type of film for the subject matter – one you won’t forget any time soon.