The Father (2020)

The Father
Director: Florian Zeller
Writer: Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller
Based on: Florian Zeller’s play Le père
Cast: Olivia Colman, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Ayesha Dharker
Seen on: 13.9.2021

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is getting older. But that doesn’t mean that he wants any help. After managing to scare off yet another caretaker, his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) gets more desperate. She tries to convince him to try with another nurse, Laura (Imogen Poots), but Anthony doesn’t trust Anne. And he realizes that he can’t trust what he sees, either.

The Father is not the first movie about a character with dementia, but it is one of the most effective ones in taking on the perspective of someone who isn’t sure about their reality anymore (without ever resorting to fantasy). It’s touching, unsettling and beautifully made.

The film poster showing Anne (Olivia Colman) and Anthony (Anthony Hopkins).

The Father is a really well-constructed film in pretty much every way you look at it. The way the dialogues repeat, and yet shift around, the way the background changes all the time, both in the layout and the look of the apartment, and the casting itself where people seem to switch roles – it all contributes to pull you into Anthony’s perspective and his confusion.

Yet the film isn’t just confusing. We do see enough of Anne and of Anthony’s surroundings to deduce what may be the “truth” behind the confusion, another artful twist in the way the story is told and that makes Anthony’s disorientation even more immediate.

Anne (Olivia Colman) talking to Anthony (Anthony Hopkins).

With the dialogues and the absolutely fantastic acting by Hopkins and Colman (who take center stage and therefore stand out more, but the rest of the cast is also very good), those clever structures come alive, and become very emotional indeed. When the cruelty comes out from under Anthony’s bumbling charm, it’s a slap in the face. When Anne tries everything to keep it together despite the bad bits, it is heart-wrenching.

I can only imagine how it must feel for people who have parents or other close relatives with dementia, or who have dementia themselves. For an outsider like me, it felt realistic and devastating, without overdramatization. All of this makes The Father a really powerful bit of cinema.

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) clapping his hands together.

Summarizing: beautiful.

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