The only thing I knew about Florian Zeller’s The Father (2020) prior to watching it was that Anthony Hopkins was getting a lot of awards buzz around his performance. Finding out that Olivia Colman was the co-star definitely added to my excitement to watch it. If you know nothing about it or have yet to watch it, I think it is best to go ahead and wait to read this. The gut punch I experienced watching this film – unaware of what the subject matter was – certainly added to the experience.
Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is aging, but insists that he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. Anne (Olivia Colman) is struggling with what to do as she watches Anthony try to make sense of his changing circumstances, forgetfulness, and even the fabric of his reality.
I’m going to go ahead and directly address the man or woman who engraves the statues at the Academy Awards…be sure you spell “Sir Anthony Hopkins” correctly. Hopkins has given some tremendous performances in his career, alongside some horrendously silly and bad ones. He outdoes them all, it seems, with this earnest and sincere performance. His ability to bring the heartbreak in this film – and yet be charming and later frustrating – is pure talent on display. The performance without a doubt qualifies as Oscar material, but there are so many subtle moments that really stand out above those award reel ones.
Colman continues to also demonstrate how many years her talents went underappreciated. Her presence in a scene immediately heightens whatever emotion is meant to be demonstrated. Should we feel sad? Should we be laughing? Colman will take whatever feeling, and compound it with her performance with a subtle shaky lip, a single tear, a look of melancholy so powerful the audience will be helpless in its glow. She brings so much to her roles, and the fact that she can juggle comedy or heartbreak so effortlessly accentuates her talent.
Movies depicting dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any unnamed degradation of mental faculties are becoming more common. The various approaches the writers and directors have taken in displaying them from objective participants to subjective ones has varied in success. Relic (2020) really played with the horror genre in an interesting way, but I found the experience in The Father to be more frightening. There was something more than the title that reminded me of Darren Arronofsky’s Mother! (2017), but I can’t quite place my finger on it. It is a feeling of unease that the film locked me in and kept making me think back to those two films. I was unsure of what I was seeing, and which reality was real. I believe, without being able to know, that Zeller captured the experience of what one going through those aforementioned problems feels.
The Father is worthy of the praise it is receiving. It accomplishes being an engaging movie, while also lending insight to a terrifying element of our reality. Losing one’s ability to “know” the truths and realities of the world has to be among one the scariest possibilities that can happen to us – especially when considering that when it is happening to you, you may not know. The Father earns the Must See rating.