The sun is finally shining. The cinemas are finally open. So, what do we recommend? A film about the unwinnable struggle of a demented father. Why? The Father is an intense experience and Anthony Hopkins a phenomenon.
Does anyone remember the time when Sir Anthony Hopkins had something to prove? In any case, it has been a very long time. It did not stop the scumbag from The Silence of the Lambs or Nixon or the butler from The Remains of the Day, now in his eighties, from playing the socks off everyone and thus deservedly winning a second Oscar. In The Father, with a very astute performance, he lets the viewer experience the loutish, degrading and immensely confusing things dementia does to a person. A very intense experience.
The 82-year-old Welshman shares his first name with the unfortunate title hero. Anthony is too proud and bossy to admit that he is demented and in need of help. Sometimes he tries to prove himself right by cursing at nurses or dominating his anxious, patient daughter Anne in a deliberately provoked dispute. Not very sympathetic. As you would expect after The Crown and her Oscar-winning role as Queen Anne in The Favourite, Olivia Colman knows how to handle the character of the daughter plagued by duty and fatherly love.
It could be the brief plot of a sentiment-soaked sick flick that climaxes with a corny message or pathetic life lesson. But The Father has nothing to do with that genre. After the reconnaissance round outlining the situation, the viewer becomes increasingly suspicious. Something is not right. This oppressive feeling goes crescendo to the highly unpleasant case that nothing at all is right anymore. The day before yesterday became today. The spacious flat in London a cramped cage. Doors and corridors stop taking you where you need to go. Where was it that you were supposed to be again? The strange man in your house claims to be your daughter's husband. But she fled to Paris. The traitor. The confusion is wearing off less and less. Before despair comes resistance, the heroic but almost hopeless struggle to regain a grip on reality. Or at least be able to pretend you still have that grip. The viewer joins in the puzzle. What is chimera, what is bitter reality? Who knew a life could turn into such a grimly labyrinthine thriller?
Hopkins does not lose the viewer for a second as he plays a character who loses everything and everyone, including himself. A feat but he is also the first to point out the ingenuity of the Oscar-winning screenplay. Debuting director Florian Zeller himself adapted the French play with which he created a furore in 2012 and resists the tendency to minimise the cruelty of decay or to portray the decaying father as more sympathetic than he is. As painful as it is haunting.
FR, UK, dir.: Florian Zeller, act.: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots