Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language
Anthony Hopkins as Anthony
Olivia Colman as Anne
Rufus Sewell as Paul
Imogen Poots as Laura
Mark Gatiss as The Man
Olivia Williams as The Woman
Director: Florian Zeller
A man (Anthony Hopkins) refuses all assistance from his daughter (Olivia Colman) as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.
The Father was a movie I had been hearing about for a long time, ever since it had its premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in 2020. It was about an old man with dementia that stars Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. On face value, The Father looked like textbook Oscar bait. It looked like a slow burn movie about old people that would no doubt have good performances from its Oscar winning actors, and from the subject matter did seem to fit into the category of misery porn. The marketing and the posters certainly didn’t help. However, from hearing some of the reactions, not only did some people declare Hopkins’s performance one of his best (if not his best), but there’s a lot of praise for the actual movie itself. So even before it received its Oscar nominations I was curious to check it out. I was lucky enough to watch it myself in the cinema and it ended up being fantastic.
The Father is based off the director’s play, and you can sort of tell from the movie that it was based off a play, from the dialogue, to the contained nature of the story, to the placing of the scene in a singular location for the most part. However, this movie does things with that, which really elevates it and takes advantage of it (mostly to do with the direction). Much of the movie actually feels like a nightmare or horror movie even though at its core it is a drama. It plays from Hopkins’s perspective like a psychological thriller in slow motion, which as it turns out was an incredibly effective way of depicting something as disorienting and torturous as dementia. Hopkins is an unreliable narrator here, but unlike other movies, it isn’t used to make the movie more thrilling or exciting. The reveals and ‘twists’ aren’t just there to throw you off and confuse you, it’s also telling a story. It also easily could’ve just been misery porn, but it’s handled with a lot of genuine care and consideration. You really experience the events from the main character’s point of view, showing his disorientated confused point of view with outstanding effect. The story is sometimes circular and there are events that are similar to each other, we get lost in Anthony’s confusion along with him. For example, sometimes characters are represented by different actors, I won’t say much more than that. You are confused, but it’s not confusing in a bad way, we are trying to figure out who is who and what is happening along with him. It is heartbreaking and tragic to watch, but it isn’t just your standard story. It was quite creative because of how the movie tells its story. It isn’t just an exterior observation of a man’s life with dementia, but rather an interactive experience as the viewer feels everything he feels. Not only that, but we also see how dementia has an effect on the people around them. I never felt like the story was dragging for me, each scene and moment serves its importance. At the same time, it isn’t an easy movie to sit through, as you would expect given the subject matter. It is definitely a movie where you have to focus in on the details, this isn’t a movie that you should just have on in the background. It’s short at 97 minutes, but that’s the right length for the story I’d say.
The acting is what the movie is getting the most recognition for, and for good reason. First of all, Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins has a long and remarkable acting career. Now in his 80s, he delivers what I consider to be his best performance yet. He’s phenomenal, breathtaking and heart-wrenching in the lead role. Despite being such a recognisable actor, his performance feels incredibly real. It would be easy for any actor to overplay his role given that he’s playing someone with dementia, but he is flat out pitch perfect from beginning to end. It might actually be one of the best performances I’ve seen. Hopkins is getting a lot of well-deserved acclaim, however it’s not just him who should be receiving praise for acting here. Olivia Colman as usual delivers an amazing performance as the daughter of Hopkins. She’s so incredibly believable as this realistic and empathetic character, as she’s trying to grapple with what her father is going through. Like Hopkins, she feels completely real, and really does convey what you would expect some people would go through and feel when watching loved ones go through dementia. Other actors like Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell and Olivia Williams provide some solid support work too.
This movie is directed by Florian Zeller, and from looking at the premise and at the images, you would initially expect a very static and standard direction. However, it’s anything but that. As said previously, the movie puts you in the headspace of Hopkins, and the direction plays a large part in that. The editing, arrangement of the scenes and more, all of it is handled in a way that confuses us along with our protagonist. The music and sound mixing were incredibly effective too.
The Father really does deserve all of the acclaim and awards attention it has been receiving. It’s a tragic and heartbreaking, yet unique, well-constructed and greatly made movie and portrayal of dementia. Even if you aren’t as into the movie or story as I was, the performances along make it worth watching, with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman being absolutely tremendous (with Hopkins delivering some career best work here). It’s not a movie I want to revisit but it’s one I’m glad I saw, and I think it’s worth watching.