A heart-wrenching film featuring a tour-de-force performance from Anthony Hopkins.
French writer-filmmaker Florian Zeller adapts his own stage play, ‘Le Père’, onto the screen with a new English screenplay by Christopher Hampton. The results are devastating.
Told from the perspective of dementia sufferer Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), who is cared for by his daughter Anne (Olivia Coleman), we are immersed in his mental unravelling: as he loses grip on reality, details change, figures morph, and scenes seem to take place out of order. The film becomes a puzzle that both Anthony and the audience need to piece together.
While this may sound gimmicky on paper, the disorientating and meticulous construction of The Father is one of the major factors that make it a uniquely affecting insight into an unfathomable affliction. The other main factor is the performances, specifically Anthony Hopkins’; the 83-year-old won his second Oscar for the role, and deservingly so, as it’s no hyperbole to state that despite an illustrious career, this is his career-defining turn. He offers a devastatingly impressive emotional kaleidoscope that makes up for some of the film’s unavoidably stagey moments.
Fair word of warning: this can be a hard film to recommend. If The Father sounds emotionally draining, that’s because it is, and necessarily so. Zeller conveys the painful disease with unflinching honesty, empathy and, crucially, never pretends to offer any answers regarding the insidious disease. As such, this is the kind of demanding viewing experience that has the capacity to leave you in stunned silence once the credits start rolling, especially after that heart-wrenching final scene. It may prove to be too much for some viewers, especially those who have gone through similar circumstances with a loved one. However, if you feel you’re up to it, this is definitely one trip worth the emotional investment.
The Father / Directed by Florian Zeller (UK, 2021), with Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman. Starts August 26.