Since its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, audiences have heard great to amazing things about The Father and Anthony Hopkins’ performance in the film.
Florian Zeller makes his directorial debut with The Father, a film based on his 2012 play ‘Le Pere’. Zeller’s managed to get a pretty stellar cast consisting of the legendary Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss, and Olivia Williams.
The film focuses on Anthony (Hopkins), who is almost 80-years old. He is caustic, mischievous, and defiantly living alone. He rejects every hired caretaker that his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman), lovingly introduces. Anne is desperate for help, but Anthony refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. Anne cannot make daily visits anymore, and Anthony’s grip on reality is unravelling as he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances. Anthony begins to doubt his loved ones, his mind, and even the fabric of his reality. Anne grieves the loss of her father as he lives and breathes before her.
Florian Zeller adapts his play to the big screen with skilful mannerisms and perfection. The film puts you in Anthony’s headspace, as he tries to remember the pieces of his life and when/where things happened. It is the way Zeller edits and composes this film that makes the plot shine. It is an interesting and unique way to portray dementia, an approach we have not seen before on film. Through mood-swings, memory loss, and multiple people playing the same character, it gets you in the head of Anthony.
Hopkins delivers his best performances in decades. There is no one else in mind that could have played this role so perfectly as him. Captivating, demonstrating the incredible range and legendary status that he has. In a matter of minutes, he could make you laugh, make you a little angry with him, and break your heart as well. The performance he gives in this film matches the greatness of his Academy Award-winning performance in The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Olivia Colman is excellent in the film, too, playing Anthony’s daughter. It is one of the most empathetic and heartfelt roles of her career. You can see the frustration and tears through her eyes as she tries to care for her father. As the film goes on, you understand what she is going through and how hard it is to deal with the circumstances. You see the guilt that she has as a child, unable to do more for her father. It’s another excellent performance by an actress that brings something different with each role, turning her into one of the best working actresses of this generation.
The film has a lot of impactful moments, with two of them hitting quite hard. One scene in particular towards the end may have you tearing up. It is a sad, relatable, realistic, and chilling viewing experience, especially if you have been through something similar personally. Something that you would not wish upon others or happen to yourself in the future.
Zeller concocts an excellent drama film that audiences will remember. The Father haunts you like a horror story, not by fright, but with stunning realism that it may happen to someone close to you, a friend or loved one. It is not an easy watch, but the film is oddly beautiful in how unflinching it can be. With compassion and an accurate understanding of the mental health issue that is dementia, it shows love for Anthony even in his worst states. A powerful film that everyone should watch.
Director Florian Zeller wanted Anthony Hopkins specifically for the part. He sent Hopkins the script in 2017 and waited for a reply. In the meantime, he did not pursue production with any other actors in the lead role. He said if Hopkins had not agreed to the film, then it likely would have been made in French instead.