Oscar Nominations 2021 – FILM REVIEW: The Father (2020)

Dir: Florian Zeller

Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design.

Score: ☆☆

Anthony Hopkins offers an astonishing central performance as an ageing man (also called Anthony) who is resisting practical living help from his daughter as dementia begins to take hold of his mind. Hopkins gives what could easily be a career best in this engrossing drama that breaks down the walls of what one might assume this type of drama might be. Based on Florian Zeller’s 2012 play Le Pere, Zeller makes his film directing debut in this mind bending piece of cinema that is part kitchen sink drama part surrealist horror film. Crucially Zeller’s story allows a unique insight into Hopkin’s mindset that gives the viewer just an inkling of what it must be like to suffer with dementia and it is powerful stuff. In lesser hands Hopkin’s role could have easily misfired but here his pointedly theatrical flourishes are the perfect and often painfully meaningful counterpoint to the rather banal every day realism of the other players like Oliva Colman, Imogen Poots, Olivia Williams and even The League of Gentleman’s Mark Gatiss. Colman, who for full disclosure I am not as blindly enamoured with as most, does overdo it on occasion and Imogen Poots is also sometimes a tad annoying and wide eyed, but nothing that ruins the film’s central thrust.

Cast & Crew of The Father

As a stage play originally, some moments can seem a little forced on the big screen and the ideas on display are not new to the cinema when it comes to the breakdown of perspective experienced by a character. Throughout one is reminded of films by directors as diverse as Adrian Lyne, Ron Howard and perhaps most closely the mind(s) of Charlie Kaufman. The use of sets is clever, as is the progression of Hopkins’ central character both of which one might expect from a great piece of theatre. It is fascinating to see Hopkins’ choices as a actor that help us see Anthony’s choices as a character. It’s a closed world and it’s closing ever further in, so in essence it becomes a chamber piece about perspective and confusion. Watching Hopkins’ character choose not to speak, or on other occasions lose control of what of he is saying is the work of a master actor. The film itself is not a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch, it’s rather too quotidian for that, but none the less it offers a valuable insight into the human experience and should be widely applauded for its ability to elicit understanding as a result of its ability to put you into the shoes of another. As well of course for Hopkins’ almost faultless ability to switch between being an avatar for the viewer as well as invoking your own real world observations of others. No great ground is broken here in adapting the play from stage to screen but Zeller’s simple mind trickery is never less than engrossing, often harrowing and above all human.

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