The Father centres around Anthony Hopkins who plays Anthony, a man in his advancing years who still feels he can live in his flat unaided, yet is in a constant state of denial that he needs any form of care whatsoever.
He claims his carer is stealing from him, yet it’s more the case that he is suffering from dementia. I’ve seen elements of that in my late mother, albeit not to the same degree as Anthony, but always claiming she knew what’s best for her, and still wanting to have lived forever in her house, even though her failing mobility played a part that told a different tale.
At one point in this film, as Anthony talks to daughter Anne (Olivia Colman), he says, “Where is your sister? Have you heard from her?” The look on Anne’s face tells a less than positive outcome can be the only response to that, but it goes unspoken. You will learn what happens as things go on.
But life takes unexpected turns, and Anne needs to move away because she’s met a man from Paris, so that’s quite a distance, and hence, she can’t be around every day. As such, Anthony starts to cry about being “abandoned“, saying, “What’s to become of me?”
However, then the confusion starts to kick in, as the next day, Anthony chances upon a man (Mark Gatiss) who calls himself Paul and claims HE lives there, and that Anthony moved in, and not the other way round.
Plus, is the flat really his own? And why is his daughter now in the guise of Olivia Williams? Nothing’s making sense to him, and as everything begins to chop and change around him, and he starts to lose all track of time, you’re left wondering what is real and what is Memorex. The editing and direction is such that we’re expertly taken through those changes with him, and such changes take place when we don’t even realise. You’ll know when you’ve experienced them, and the effect is immense and heartbreaking to take in.
In fact, when you get subtle changes in the environment inhabited by Anthony, it’s like the changes in the closing sections of 2001: A Space Odyssey prior to the ‘starchild’, although I was able to check The Father out twice within a short time, and the second time really paid dividends, since a second viewing does help you grasp a lot of things which you didn’t quite get the first time round. Meanwhile, nothing can really be explained in Kubrick’s movie: It looks great, but please don’t expect an essay from me afterwards.
As a random aside, there’s one thing that really bugs me in TV dramas and films and which happens here – a character goes to open a push-button kitchen bin with their fingers, puts the rubbish in, and closes it the same way, before going about their tasks in the kitchen without washing their hands… after touching a BIN!
As another aside, if you’re wondering why the film is a 12-cert, it’s only really for two f-words.
The Father is a film which is both beautiful and one to make you feel sad at the same time. Anthony Hopkins is such a delight to watch in this, as he has been so many times over the years – I must’ve seen him first when I was a kid, as a ventriloquist in Magic, to more recent fare like the madcap Transformers: The Last Knight, and one of my sci-fi favourites, 1992’s Freejack. He’s also made a series of brilliant videos online since lockdown began, thanks to his face being so expressive, plus his moves, as he tap-dances at one point to get across how that was a former career for his character. He truly is one of Britain’s National Treasures.
None of my relatives has got to the point of being as struck down with dementia as much as Anthony, which I can only put down as a blessing in disguise, such as my late mother who had many health issues, and for whom, COVID19 led to an earth death, but this film gives an insight into how things could’ve gone for her had she lived longer, plus how they go for so many people every day.
With a brilliant script and direction from Florian Zeller, and a glorious, complimentary soundtrack from Ludovico Einaudi, plus some choice classical music pieces, The Father really is essential viewing and Anthony Hopkins is such a powerhouse in this. Thanks to him, I don’t mind admitting that I was a complete mess by the end of this. It would be quite a film to see on the big screen, but only if I could leave without anyone seeing me afterwards.
I know Mr Hopkins has been nominated for Best Actor for this film in the Golden Globes and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Movies for Grownups Awards, with others including BAFTA and the Oscars to follow, but I hope he completely scoops the board for this.
The Father is due for release on March 12th, although UK cinemas are closed for the foreseeable. Once I know of any online services it may be streaming on, I’ll update here. It’s also released in the US this coming Friday, February 26th, but the film isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
Running time: 97 minutes
Release date: March 12th 2021
Studio: Film 4
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (X-OCN ST (6K))
Director: Florian Zeller
Producers: Philippe Carcassonne, Simon Friend, Jean-Louis Livi, David Parfitt, Christophe Spadone
Screenplay: Florian Zeller (based on his play)
Music: Ludovico Einaudi
Anthony: Anthony Hopkins
Anne: Olivia Colman
The Man: Mark Gatiss
The Woman: Olivia Williams
Laura: Imogen Poots
Paul: Rufus Sewell
Dr. Sarai: Ayesha Dharker
Boy: Roman Zeller
Lucy: Evie Wray (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.