Image source: IMDB
At first glance this film tells the simple story of an aging father who deeply misses her daughters. As we see Anne played by Olivia Colman trudging along the pavement of what seems to be her father’s flat. We then see the titular father played by the legendary Anthony Hopkins who bears a similar name from the film’s protagonist, the aging father, Anthony.
It is in the following scenes that we get the relationship between Anne and her father, as we see Anthony adamantly cling on to his vigor, and ultimately his mortality. The film takes us for an unprecedented turn when the characters that we once knew do not seem to appear the same way. At a twist of the knife, Anne is now being played by the dazzling Olivia Williams or so it appears to Anthony.
The audience is then taken for quite a ride as we experience first-hand the dwindling mental state of the eponymous father, as details become jumbled up and the sequence of events get all the more twisted. It is in this very moment that we realize that we are in Anthony’s shoes, and we are merely spectators in his painfully horrific descent into dementia.
As Anthony loses his grip on reality, the audience slowly picks up the little crumbs of repetitive details that are splayed across the screen. At a masterful turn of his hand, director Florian Zeller punches the audience in the gut with visuals and scenes that are as puzzling to the audience as it is to Anthony. Yet, the audience never plays the part of the fool, that role is Anthony’s alone.
As first-time director Florian Zeller’s debut film, The Father is a masterful exercise of his skill as a playwright adapting his play of the same name onto the silver screen with precise detail and beautiful cinematography. The movie plays out much like a theater play with vibrant scenes and characters that might jump out of the screen at a moment’s turn.
Apart from the scenery, the compelling performances of each player lends itself to the beautiful emotional core at the heart of the film. Anthony Hopkins plays a powerful part in the success of the film, as he delivers a beautiful performance full of nuance, heart, and character. His is a performance that demands an emotional investment from the audience, and he certainly earns it.
It’s absolutely no surprise that Hopkins bagged the Oscar for Best Actor with his remarkable performance in this equally remarkable film. The Father is as painful as it is beautiful. Within the final moments of the film, the details do not neatly unravel themselves, in fact the puzzle is still as messy as it is with faces, places, and scenes appearing as far-off memories in a demented Anthony’s mind, far-flung from the present reality that he inhabits.
The film beautifully ends as the camera slowly drifts into the images of nature, with Anthony lamenting “I feel as if I’m losing all my leaves.” Indeed he is losing, it is a battle he cannot win, it is painful, a guttural resolution, but this is the father’s reality now, and it is one that he will have to face alone.