The Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman narrative, ‘The Father’ is a movie based on the Play of the same name by Florian Zeller. And it’s easily a film you will call one of the best movies of the year or of any year.
Anthony Hopkins is marvelous as Anthony, an eighty-year-old Englishman who likes nothing more than living alone in his flat. Living alone means he gets the joy of listening to his favorite classical music without being disturbed. That said, he does enjoy being visited by his caring daughter Anne, played by Olivia Colman, when she comes to visit. However, on this particular visit, they discuss the helper she has insisted on giving him. His current helper’s name is Angela, and he is convinced she has stolen his watch. After listening to his story, Anne suggests that maybe he check his secret hiding place before accusing someone of theft. Just like that, it’s found. The watch was, as suspected, in the hiding place that he had forgotten existed.
Anthony doesn’t want a caregiver, but Anne is there to discuss with him the reasons he needs one. The main reason being that she is moving to Paris to be with Paul (Rufus Sewell) and will not be around anymore to help him as she has always been. Anthony gets highly upset over the fact that she is abandoning him. He asks Anne, as a child would, ‘But what about ME?!’ When you consider that this is her father, this scene becomes more heartbreaking.
Anthony has dementia, and his condition is getting worse. You soon realize that what seems like a little memory issue is a serious problem. When what’s really going on in the film hits you, you’ll bow down to French writer and director, Florian Zeller (The Other Woman), for writing and directing the story and for having it develop and unfold the way it does. It’s completely brilliant. There’s just no other way to say it.
One fascinating tool he uses is to keep you unsure about the length of time passing by. Is it days or merely moments? Is it real or a dream? This is intentional to confuse Anthony and the audience. This is done on purpose to keep the audience watching from his perspective. Pay close attention to clothing and changes in the setting for clues as to what is real and what is, possibly, an old memory or a hallucination. Helping to keep poor Anthony lost, you see Anne as one person, then you see her as another. Paul is played by one actor and then, in another scene, he pops up as someone else. It never ends.
As Anthony’s memory deteriorates, the man he once was, dies. He grows angrier and more unhappy. He’s unsure of himself yet desperately trying to grasp what is happening to him. Watching him go through this is Anne, wishing she could have back the cultured father she learned so much from and always looked up to. She gets him another caregiver. Meeting her throws another face into the mix to keep you off-kilter. How this character is used will blow your mind.
The final scene is painful to watch and will haunt you long after the film is over. Just when Anthony believes he has a grasp on things, he’s assaulted with the fact that what he knew to be reality was just another illusion. He now stands wandering alone in his room.
His mind all but mush at this point, he calls out for the one person he remembers has always been there for him. He even asks his nurse if this person will come to visit him. I’ll let you find out on your own who that person is and who Anne is, as well. Is it possible she… isn’t? I’ll not go any further.
Trust me when I say that the role of Anthony is one of the most powerful performances ever given by Anthony Hopkins. And as far as the storytelling goes, it’s exceptional. ‘The Father’ is definitely one of the most riveting films of the year… of the last several years, even. See this at home or at the theater immediately. It’s an absolute must-watch!
*‘The Father’ opens wide today 3/12 and comes to PVOD on 3/26!
Director: Florian Zeller
Writers: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams
Running Time: PG-13
*Based on the Play “The Father” by Florian Zeller