The Father – Review

Release Date – 11th June 2021, Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 36 minutes, Director – Florian Zeller

A woman (Olivia Colman) sees her deteriorating father (Anthony Hopkins) through life in his flat, interviewing various potential carers.

With such a reputation as the one he has it’s weird to think that Anthony Hopkins has only won one Academy Award to date, Best Actor for his terrifying 16 minutes in The Silence Of The Lambs – arguably still his best performance. However, with his latest role this could change. Far from the reaches of Hannibal Lecter. Anthony – a former engineer (even if his lavish, expansive flat of 30 years would suggest a better-paying profession) – is a frail, yet confident gentleman. Living his days listening to the radio, sipping the occasional whiskey and conversing with his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman). However, Anne’s face appears to change throughout the film (Olivia Williams), and so does that of her husband (Rufus Sewell/ Mark Gatiss). It’s made clear that it may not be a case that things aren’t right in Anthony’s home, but potentially his mind.

Anne sees him through a number of, often disastrous, interviews with potential carers – her father is adamant that he is fine and doesn’t need help, despite protests from those around him, and even her. The gradually changing details and effective state and attention to detail within the production design put you directly into the mind of the central figure. The character is dealt with tenderly, his narrative somewhat simplistic, yet immense in emotion and detail. Hopkins’ towering performance is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, all delivering realistic, authentic depictions of the family circle that surrounds Anthony. It’s such gentle, generous performances that add to the gradually increasing emotional impact of the film, as the viewer’s understanding of the circling events increases. There’s strength that truly allows for the subtlety of the screenplay to come through.

Christopher Hampton and director Florian Zeller’s screenplay (adapted from Zeller’s stage-play of the same name) is thoughtful and considered and guides you through the world of the titular Father as his mind, and the should-be-familiar surroundings around him get increasingly shrouded in chaos and shadow. Following him through the warping environment of his flat and the increasing worry of Colman’s concerned and conflicted daughter, hiding a rising helplessness. There’s a mixture of emotions throughout the film. One second Hopkins is cheerfully charming, pretending to have been a tap dancer before he retired, the next he’s panicking and breaking down as his world literally disappears around him. It’s a shattering portrayal and one that truly gets to the heart of the film’s themes and ideas – connecting with the viewer in a much more effective way than you may initially feel it has; one particular scene really shows your bond with the film and its characters as it devastates you emotionally and leave you feel as helpless as Hopkins conveys. To the point where a slight fear factor (fear of the unknown, or for the character?) begins to settle in.

It’s an overall fantastic film and the elements truly come together for something worthwhile. Establishing itself firmly by the end when everything comes full circle and a number of built-up points are completely revealed the focus is still always on the character, yet with attention to detail always on background elements. The fantastic performances elevate the eventual gut-punch nature of the piece, and Hopkins completely owns the final 25 minutes – a fine performance towards the top of an undeniably distinguished career. Those around him in this feature also put in strong efforts, doing the quietly effective screenplay and individual visual elements a great service. All give fine contributions and make for something that is eventually an immense piece of heart-breaking emotion, rattling through a demolishing third act in which Hopkins shines stronger than he already has throughout the rest of the film. This is a fine, tender and thoughtful piece of work that is considered and quietly powerful in its portrayals of the effects that a mind’s deterioration has on multiple people, all from the increasingly scary perspective of the person its happening to.

Hopkins not only owns the final 25 minutes of The Father, but provides a superb performance throughout. With attention to detail and a quietly strong screenplay backing him, alongside a great supporting cast, this is a shattering, and sometimes scary, piece of work all from a fantastically performed perspective.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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