It’s not as often as you think but every now and then a film arrives with all the expectation and hits it. The Father is one of those exceptional instances in terms of structure, actors and captivation, I genuinely could not find fault, so sit back and let this captivating wave of storytelling pull you right into their little world.
This is Florian Zeller’s directorial debut, based on his own play, with a screenplay co-written with Christopher Hampton. It brings to life a devastating tale of growing older, family guilt, responsibilities and even possible outcomes of this life we all lead. Starring Anthony Hopkins in the eponymous role of the elderly, yet independent, Anthony (Yes, also the character name), we follow his day-to-day life after he’s moved into his daughter’s (Olivia Colman) flat, as he can no longer look after himself. Anne (Colman) is trying to do everything she can to make his elder years easy, but he’s becoming problematic in his behaviour and forgetfulness.
While the overall story of The Father is one I don’t want to reveal too much of, as it’s an equally poignant and important factor to the entire plot, I think it somehow avoids the pitfalls and cliché of other similar scenarios with inventive editing (by Yorgos Lamprinos) and suggestion. The key to everything is Anthony Hopkins, who offers the audience an outstanding tour-de-force performance. In one instance, he’s loving to his daughter and husband, and welcoming to newcomers, and in the next he can brutally punch his words into the atmosphere, pushing those around him onto the back foot. Hopkins is compelling as he delves through devilish and playful and, once again, suddenly cutting deep into the soul of his loved ones, with an equal measure of bite and heartbreak. It’s exceptional.
Colman is, as you’d expect, brilliant as always. Her confidence and range continue to grow with every performance, you believe her situation and you never doubt her intentions on any part. She brings the emotional connection, as well as still being a sharp, crucial character. It’s good to see Rufus Sewell, whom I haven’t seen for a while, as he always offers a unique force of reality and that strength is here in waves. Olivia Williams also plays a vital part, and her empathy is high, it’s effortless and comforting. Alongside her, it’s refreshing to see Mark Gatiss playing a more restrained character with a lot of subtly. He’s always got an edge lurking, but I enjoyed this portrayal. And, finally, the excellent (and somewhat underrated) Imogen Poots, who is packed with humanity, warmth and genuine compassion.
While you can witness Zeller’s stage touch, with scenes lit as if we were watching the play, it really works within the setting and Ben Smithard‘s cinematography is crisp and direct. As well as being perfectly scored by Ludovico Einaudi, The Father is also subtly layered with metaphors, effortlessly filmed and plays with time in a way that doesn’t confuse but, instead, adds to the curiosity of what’s actually going on.
Captivating, heart-wrenching and brilliant, sit back, take it all in and watch Hopkins giving another performance of a lifetime.