The Father

  • 20 Feb - 26 Feb, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Based on the acclaimed, award-winning play, The Father starts out as a deceptively simple drama hinged on a deceptively familiar dynamic. Anne (Olivia Colman) is losing patience with her 80-year-old father, Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), whose grip on reality is fading but who refuses to allow a care taker to look after him. She’s moving to Paris and needs to ensure his safety while she is away so before she leaves she must find someone who will endure him. For Anthony, life has become a source of ever-disorienting confusion and in a masterful stroke, the writer-director Florian Zeller (who created the original stage production) tells the story from his eyes as characters and locations shift and we become as muddled as he.

Anthony is essentially a character in a trippy thriller who exists in a real world drama. He thinks he’s being gaslighted in one moment and in the other he questions the very nature of his existence as his daughter is suddenly someone else (confusingly for us, it’s another Olivia: Olivia Williams) and his apartment has been refurnished in a matter of moments. It’s an ingenious way to convey the horrifying state of mind of someone with dementia, how every day is filled with sudden shocks and how impossible it must be to let someone else understand just what you’re going through. We’re mostly in one location but due to the ever-changing nature of Anthony’s surroundings, Zeller’s film is one of the more impressively realised stage-to-screen adaptations of late. There are constant tweaks made to his apartment from the decor to the layout and we begin to question everything along with him, always wondering what the real truth might be.

In some of the film’s most quietly upsetting moments, his world has shifted yet again but he remains silent, knowing that any attempt to question what he’s woken up to will only fall on deaf ears. Hopkins runs the full gamut from fury to outrage to upset and never once does it feel like a constructed character bit, despite our association with him as an actor with a storied career. It’s breathtaking to watch him here but also incredibly harrowing.

All in all, The Father is a brutal, trippy portrait of what it must feel like to lose your grip on reality. It boasts an Oscar-worthy performance.