The Father: Film Review

The Father

While most people were shocked by Anthony Hopkins’ Best Actor win back in April, I was thrilled because I had been campaigning for him to win for his heartbreaking performance in The Father since I saw it earlier this year.

The Father, co-written and directed by Florian Zeller from his 2012 play La Pere, tells the story of Anthony (Hopkins) and his battle with dementia and shows his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) struggling to figure out what the best course of action is with his care.

I went in expecting The Father to be a fairly conventional two-hander where it’s just two people talking in a room and thought it would be a powerful but generic drama about ageing. How wrong I was! Zeller manages to place the audience in the shoes of Anthony and show us what it’s like to be losing your grip on your own mind. It’s incredibly clever but absolutely unnerving, particularly in the beginning when you don’t know what’s going on. Just like Anthony, I struggled to figure out what was real and what was not, what the facts of the story really were, and which actors were the true Anne and the true version of her partner Paul (Rufus Sewell). It was confusing and it was incredibly frustrating and exasperating – which is exactly how we are supposed to feel. The film forces us to see things from Anthony’s perspective, get into his mindset, and it makes it all the more heartwrenching. Normally my confusion would put me off a film but I could understand and appreciate the point Zeller was trying to make so it didn’t on this occasion.

With the narrative being so tricky to make sense of, the film really needed to be anchored by solid performances and it certainly is. Hopkins runs the gamut of emotions as Anthony – he is angry, cruel, confused, frustrated, vulnerable, giddy with joy, and switched on – and he threw himself into the part and sold all those personality switches completely. I don’t want to ruin anything but his final scene is one of the most heartbreaking and devastating pieces of acting I’ve seen in ages and it brought me to tears. What a terrific performance. He truly deserved his win.

Colman was nominated for her supporting performance here and you can see why – Anne is really struggling to know what to do with her dad. She doesn’t want to put him in a home but he cannot look after himself and he’s been driving his carers away by being so nasty. Looking after someone with dementia is a tough, tiring task and yet she shoulders the responsibility, even when he is mean to her. You can see she has the weight of the world on her shoulders and your heart breaks for her too. She is the emotional heart of the piece. They have great support from Sewell as Anne’s partner, who is desperate to put her dad in a home, Imogen Poots as his sweet but often accidentally condescending carer, and Mark Gatiss and Olivia Williams as the random confusing characters (which make sense at the end).

Most of the time you can really tell when a film is based on a play but The Father was less obvious because it is so dynamic. The flat – the film’s primary location – changes a lot to reflect Anthony’s mindset, time doesn’t feel linear, and scenes are replayed with some differences, from what’s said, who is talking, what they’re wearing etc.

There was so much more to this than I was expecting – it blew me away! It is the most empathetic portrayal of dementia I’ve ever seen, without a doubt. Wow.

In U.K. cinemas from Friday 11th June

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Maps to the Stars: Film Review

Bailey's Quest-840.cr2

This is dark, twisted, extreme but amazing. I really enjoyed this for its well-observed, cutting commentary on the Hollywood industry and how it can mess up a person. It also very honest and witty. There are plenty more superlatives but I think the one that sums it up the best is: genius.

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