Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton’s stage play is a perfect dive into the mind of the demented: a movie worthy of an Oscar
You will be hard-pressed to find any other movie done so brilliantly than what Florian Zeller did with The Father. Anthony Hopkins’ pitch-perfect performance is only as perfect as Zeller and Hampton’s work put into bringing the movie to life.
What can be more difficult than entering a room you don’t recognize with a man you’ve never seen in your life, drinking a cup of coffee so nonchalantly. Zeller’s The Father paints a perfect picture of how upsetting and confusing life can be for the demented, taking you into the mind of a man living in terror and fear.
Hopkin’s character Anthony, frequent arguments with his carers, and worsening health pushed him into living with this only daughter Anne (Oliver Colman), with the possibility of moving into a nursing home ever so close to his mind. He always forgets his current situation and thinks Anne’s house is his own. He even forgets Anne is his daughter sometimes.
Hopkins brilliantly portrayed the anger and fear Anthony uses as a defense mechanism. It is a performance that requires baring your soul, as Anthony struggles to get a hold of his mind despite his forgetfulness to have an edge. There is little anyone can say about Anthony being a kind person, and you can occasionally see his older “healthy” personality filled with venom that makes you wonder if your sympathies are not misplaced. It’s the kind of performance that maintains a perfect balance between being award-worthy without being entirely melodramatic.
Zoller didn’t let Hopkins do all the work; rather, his creativity can be seen in both subtle and more pronounced ways with his structural and stylistic tricks. He constantly rearranged the layout and aesthetic of Anne’s home to the discomfort of the viewers: The disappearing and reappearing of a painting, the shrinking kitchen and doors which was supposed to lead to the living room, leading into the doctor’s office instead. Anthony’s lucidity determines which actor plays Anne’s husband – on his good days, Rufus Sewell and Mark Gatiss are on the bad days. Even as a viewer, you will question what is real as many happening in front of your eyes are discounted by Anne as fake.
Anthony’s plight is distressing to watch, so you can only imagine what it is like for Anthony living with the disease. So even if you wonder if your empathy is misplaced, you gradually realize that dementia is truly a frightening and alienating illness. Anthony’s performance and Zeller’s input are anything but staged, offering a sense of vitality and life that other movie adaptations are missing. Even if The Father features limited characters and locations, it remains a unique cinematic work.
All in all, the Father is nothing short of the hype and praise it has received, and the movie world can only marvel at one of the very best works of one of its greatest living actors.