“The Father” (2020)
Running Time: 97 minutes
Written by: Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton
Directed by: Florian Zeller
Featuring: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell and Olivia Williams
Anthony: “I don’t need any help from anyone. And I’m not going to leave my flat. All I want is for everyone to fuck off. Having said that… it’s been a great pleasure. Au revoir. Toodle-oo.”
Released recently on DVD is the drama “The Father” (2020) a film on the surface about a man going through old age and specifically a dementia related illness along with the effects it has on his own family who are also going through it along with him.
“The Father” begins with Anne who visits her father Anthony in his flat after he has driven away the latest of several caregivers. He has dementia and constantly forgets important life events and where things are around his flat, including his watch. He tells Anne he believes his caregiver stole his watch and that he will never move out of his flat. She tells Anthony she is moving to Paris to be with a man, which confuses Anthony since he does not recall any men in her life since the end of her marriage to James. Anne says that if he keeps refusing to have a caregiver, she will have to move him into a nursing home. The film moves on from there where we meet the family and the ensuing drama that comes from that.
Florian Zeller is the co-writer and director of “The Father”, based on his own prize-winning 2012 French play of the same name with the assistance of Christopher Hampton who is an extremely successful and talented writer. The film is well written so right from the outset we are brought into the world of Anthony, we see, hear and almost experience his confusion, it is frustrating for us and him at the same time. Not only do we see his confusion but we see the impact it has on his family and loved ones, with them attempting to fit into his experiences and memories. These experiences last minutes for him, but for everyone else they have a long lasting effect as well as spreading to other parts of their lives.
“The Father” is led by the great Anthony Hopkins who is brilliant as the titular Father, like some his best performances he is both charismatic and ferocious, sometimes within the same breath. It is no wonder he was awarded the Oscar for his performance here beating some still competition, also illustrating he is still a force to be reckoned with as an artist. Of course as his daughter Olivia Colman just shows she is going from strength to strength as one of best English actors around, here she matches with a legend very well. Coleman uses her conflicting emotions to show the audience how she feels and what effect it is happening on her and everyone else.
It’s curious that right from the first scene where there is an exchange between Father and Daughter about a lost or stolen watch that is repeated, well a version of it, throughout the film with multiple other people to bring the point home of the loss they are all feeling. But while some moments of memory loss cause a jolt in the story and give Hopkins room to express his character’s frustration grandly, what’s happening throughout with the production design and editing is so subtle, it’ll make you want to rewind a few seconds just to appreciate the slight changes. Whether it’s different tiles on the kitchen backsplash, a rearranged bedroom or a white grocery bag instead of a blue one holding the chicken to roast that night, production designer Peter Francis vividly creates various versions of this same, enclosed setting. And what editor Yorgos Lamprinosdoes here is so complicated and yet so understated, it’s like a magic trick right before our eyes. Lamprinos, our Los Angeles Film Critics Association winner for best editing, had the daunting task of crafting a story that’s simultaneously confusing and compelling, and he rose elegantly to that challenge.
“The Father” is an excellent film that should be required viewing, it has everything going for it, it even has some humour, it is incredibly directed, written and performed, it was rightly nominated for multiple Oscars winning two of them. This should be a part of any collection.