Released just in time to qualify for the 2020 movie awards-cycle, "The Father" should and will be in the mix as one of the best, and truly one of the most powerful, films of the year.
Even in regards to his long, legendary career, "The Father" may be the one film that historians might pull out to show just why Anthony Hopkins was and is among the very best actors of a generation. His performance as an aging man battling Alzheimer's Disease/dementia will stick with you as poignant and devastating...with specificity to the man who he is portraying while all the while allowing universal familiarity to anyone who has ever seen a loved one cursed with such a tragic affliction.
Based on the play of the same name (the play's creator, Florian Zeller, also directs this film, his first), "The Father" centers on Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), who is under the care of his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman). Many films have dealt with aging, dementia and/or Alzheimer's numerous times in the past, but no other film has ever put the audience in the mind of a person suffering from these ailments quite like "The Father." Moments into the film, you will question Anthony's reality as he does, you will be confused and will be trying to make sense of what is and what isn't. It's pulled off masterfully, from the acting, to the direction, to the editing to the subtle score thematically stringing us along.
We establish early on, for example, that Anthony's daughter Anne has met a new man and is moving away to France. Moments later, Anne's husband is sitting in Anthony's flat apartment (or is it Anthony's flat?). How can that be? When Anne re-enters the room, she's played by a different actress, causing panic and confusion not exclusive to just Anthony, but also to the viewer. Things get increasingly bizarre, and we experience even if only for a brief while, the terribleness of what it must be like to lose one's grip on reality.
Like most other plays that are adapted, there is not much action beyond the four walls of the setting, but when things are this compelling, no additional spice is needed. The layout of the room and our understanding of it, in fact, are important components of watching the film.
And while this is a simple story at its core, Anthony Hopkins provides a mesmerizing, charming and downright brilliant performance. This role will most assuredly score him his sixth career Oscar nod, and his second straight (he was nominated in a Supporting role for last year's "The Two Popes"). Olivia Colman too, is coming off a Lead Oscar win for her performance in last year's "The Favourite," and this may very well land her a statue in the Supporting Category. Filling out the strong ensemble is Imogen Poots, Olivia Williams, Mark Gatiss and "The Man in the High Castle" actor Rufus Sewell...each drifting in and out of the movie - sometimes in different roles - as the other characters populating Anthony's world.
"The Father" builds and then does not falter at its climax, and it's the first film in years that left me crying long after the credits rolled. For some, the journey might hit too close to home, or could even be a bit too frightening for others. "The Father" is simply a film that will not easily be forgotten.
Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes.
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell.
Directed by Florian Zeller (feature-film debut).
"The Father" is available on Friday, February 26th, 2021.
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