The Father is not flashy. It doesn't have gunfights, a rousing monologue or an epic historical moment to memorialise. But it is an incredible film.
It's incredible in a low-key way in that it's difficult to pinpoint one particular element that bursts through because this is a movie where everything is working at its peak to create a spectacular whole. It's a symphony of cinematic arts.
From the production design and the editing to the screenplay by director Florian Zeller and famed scribe Christopher Hampton, plus the powerhouse performances from Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, there is no weak link in The Father.
It balances anguish and sorrow with humour and farce, a tragicomedy that could have graced the most hallowed of stages.
In fact, it did. French playwright Zeller adapted The Father from his stage production. (It had a run in Sydney with John Bell as the lead.) It's Zeller's movie directorial debut, working in collaboration with Hampton who had translated the play, La Pere, to English.
The transition from stage to screen – often a staid misadventure – has served The Father well. Zeller maintains the dynamism of the emotional and psychological beats while Yorgos Lamprino's effective editing plunges audiences into the fractured mind of its title character.
Hopkins portrays Anthony (a character that was previously unnamed in its stage iterations), an older man who has lived in the same apartment for many years. He likes to sit in his chair and listen to his records.
His daughter Anne (Colman) visits daily but on this day, she brings with her two pieces of news. The first is his latest in-home helper has quit after a recent, blazing row. The second is that Anne is moving to Paris.
Anthony insists he doesn't need another helper, especially ones he suspects of thieving his watch.
The next day, Anthony finds a man (Mark Gatiss) he doesn't recognise in his apartment, but the man tells him his name is Paul, Anne's husband. When Anne comes home, Anthony is even more confused – as is the audience because instead of Olivia Colman walking in the door, it's now Olivia Williams.
The Father plays with the audience's perspective by putting us in the shifting world of Anthony, throwing us for a curve every time Anthony is confused, belligerent or paranoid.
This masterfully crafted film tells the story of dementia and memory loss in a way that makes it so visceral, triggering deep emotional reactions from anyone who has encountered the insidious disease in their family and friends.
The staging of Anthony's apartment, subtly transformed from sequence to sequence is a rare example of a production design that doesn't just set the scene but is integral to the story and the character arc. Peter Francis' work here is superb and deserves to win the Oscar he's nominated for, one of six nods the film is vying for.
The Father has been the quiet achiever of this year's awards season, unable to grab the headlines its competitors have been dominating but has been gathering nominations across various bodies as it's released globally.
It risks being overlooked because an intimate family drama starring two acclaimed British actors doesn't have the pizzazz or excitement of some of the other rightly lauded titles this year, and the heaviness of its subject – the pain and indignity of ageing – can be confronting or off-putting.
While it seems unnecessary to point out at this stage in his long career that Hopkins is an outstanding performer, it's in roles like he has here, where he can stretch his range without being asked to chew scenes, that it's profoundly undeniable.
Watching him and Colman interact is an absolute gift while every supporting role, including Williams, Gatiss, Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell, add another dimension to this compassionate film.
If there is a quibble - and it's a small one - it's that you don't understand as much as you want to of Colman's character given the inconsistencies in Anthony's experience of his world.
The Father may capture the experience of heartache, the almost unbearable pain of watching someone you love lose more of themselves but much like life's challenges, you come out of the other side transformed.
The Father is in cinemas now