The Father Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Anthony Hopkins gives a superb performance, in this bitter-sweet drama that is written and directed by dramatist Florian Zeller.
Director: Florian Zeller
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, Mark Gatiss & Ayesha Dharker.
Run Time: 97 min.
US Release: 26 February 2021
UK Release: 11 June 2021
German Release: 26 August 2021
Given the fact that many movies had been pushed back with no secure release dates, due to the COVID pandemic, as well as cinemas, having been closed in Germany since November last year; only re-opening a couple of months ago, I had only heard of The Father when it was nominated for the Oscars this year. As I prepared to watch and review all Academy-nominated pictures, I started to realise that I was putting off checking on this film’s release date, since the subject matter was one I was trying to avoid. My grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s when I was young and I didn’t want to relive those memories.
My girlfriend was interested and brought up the topic again later this year, so I started to look up release dates. After watching The Father, I am more than grateful to her for reminding me, as the movie gave me a new perspective of the disease, as well as some form of closure. So without further ado, let’s jump into The Father’s review.
When Anthony (Hopkins), an octogenarian succumbing to dementia, refuses the help given by his daughter (Colman), his world comes tumbling down, as she tells him life-changing news. As he tries to make sense of changing circumstances around him, he begins to doubt his loved ones and his mind.
This is French playwright Florian Zeller’s debut film, who adapted his theatre play for cinema, presenting the world with an emotionally gripping story, about the relationship between a loving daughter and her father, battling a mental illness. Compared to other features depicting this issue, however, Zeller’s work tells the story from an unfamiliar point of view; that of Anthony’s confused mind. An interesting switch in style of narration, as it helps the viewer understand people that suffer from diseases like Alzheimer’s, instead of victimising them and creating a stronger emotional bond with the sick, rather than the caretaker.
Anthony Hopkins gives a stellar performance as Anthony, the main protagonist who is plagued by fast progressing dementia, revealing a side of him we haven’t seen as of yet, which proves why he earned this year's Best Actor Award. Hopkins entices the viewer with his charm, jokes and elderly sweetness, only to switch to a much darker, nastier persona within seconds, once he displays the frustration of his character due to his confused mind. Trying to hide his condition from others and too proud to accept any help, even from his daughter, Anthony is putting an even bigger strain on an already difficult relationship.
Olivia Colman plays Anthony’s daughter Anne, whose relationship with her father plays front and centre in this drama. Her rendition of Anthony's daughter is very emotional and heartbreaking, as she is watching helplessly how the sickness is changing her father. She is constantly worried about his outbursts of rage or the fact he might forget what she looks like. Worst of all, Anne has life-changing news that she doesn’t know how to break to him.
Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell and Olivia Williams round off the casting, giving the plot more finesse plus depth, through marvellous performances. I can’t get too much into their characters, however, as it would spoil specific aspects of the plot.
Conceived from Zeller’s stage play Le Pére, the film was designed to look like a theatre piece. From the opening sequence, where we zoom into Anne walking toward the camera, to the wide-angle shots of the apartment, which pass from room to room without cutting and make it look like a change in a stage set when it crosses a wall or door frame. It even finishes off with the same shot as in the beginning, simply reversed; with Anne walking away from the camera.
Cinematographer Ben Smithard also made use of lingering shots of hallways or rooms, accentuating their deeper meaning. Makeup and costume design is simple but gives specific meaning through the charm used by the characters. This drama is beautiful to look at, not using cinematography as a simple tool to tell the story, but rather turning it into a window into Anthony’s mind and thus a narrator itself.
Verdict: The Father is truly superb; containing a great cast and the best performance Anthony Hopkins has ever given! Florian Zeller managed to rewrite his play masterfully into a script, delivering a fantastic debut on the silver screen. The movie is intriguing, packs an incredible emotional punch, yet has also enough humour to make you laugh at times. The camera and costume fit the narration, complimenting the story's theatre origins. Finally, I have only this left to say; I wasn’t sure what score to give this drama when I left the theatre, given my familiar background with the subject. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to review it at all, however, with each passing day it gained more and more weight for me, making me constantly think about it! If a motion picture not only manages to stimulate your thinking but also heals an emotional wound left since childhood, it deserves a 10 out of 10.
I do implore anyone interested to learn more about dementia, to watch this drama! It is a beautiful work of art with some of the greatest performances seen in ages. Do you agree? Leave a comment below.