In a career filled with multiple high points, Anthony Hopkins delivers perhaps his finest ever performance in this devastating drama that brilliantly utilises the parameters of cinema to present the perspective of a man losing his mind.
French writer/director Florian Zeller adapts his own 2012 play, which was previously translated into English by legendary Dangerous Liasons writer Christopher Hampton. In a London flat, the ageing Anthony (Hopkins) spars with his daughter (Olivia Colman) over her insistence that he take in a caregiver (Imogen Poots).
Anthony is quick-witted and vibrant, moment-to-moment, but his daughter's concerns and his own conversational contradictions reveal that he is suffering from dementia, and lacks the mental continuity to look after himself.
The genius of Zeller's creation is how it exploits the subjectivity of visual storytelling to place you in Anthony's headspace. It must've been powerful on stage, but it's especially suited to the cinematic form, where we are taught to take the reality presented to us at face value. The repeated rug pulls have increasing power as we discover we cannot trust our own perceptions, just like the main character. It's a masterstroke of empathetic narrative that will leave you reeling.
Recipients of two of the film's six Academy Award nominations, Hopkins and Colman are sublime. Hopkins' confused rage is all the more impactful for existing on top of the actor's powerhouse charisma, and Colman conveys mountains of heartfelt anguish without specifically articulating it in dialogue. Mark Gattis (The League of Gentlemen) makes an impression among a small, superlative supporting cast.
The lack of location variety may reveal the story's stage-bound origins, but there's nothing restricted about the impact of The Father, which is part of a recent burst of creative dementia-themed films alongside relationship drama Supernova and the Australian horror Relic.
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman
Director: Florian Zeller
Running time: 97 minutes
Rating:M (Offensive language)
Verdict: Innovative, captivating, heartbreaking.