Father film cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss, Rufus Seawell, Olivia Williams
Father Film Director: Florian Zeller
Father Film Rating: 4 stars
You smile when you find out that the character played by Anthony Hopkins is called Anthony. Did it come from director Florian Zeller’s play on which the film is based, and whose screenplay he co-wrote? Or was it from the actor himself? Either way, as both conceit and fact, it is spot on. As Hopkins is the old man who lost his mind in Zeller’s first film, ‘The Father’.
The film opens with a wandering Anthony about a large, exquisitely appointed flat in London. At first glance, all seems well, but within minutes, Anthony’s disorientation begins to show. In a swift testimony conversation with her daughter Anne (Olivia Coleman), we learn that she has pursued several care-divers because she does not believe she needs any help. As Anthony wanders to different places – the living room, the dining table, the kitchen – we both see in our eyes a living-acquaintance and strangeness, as it rests on those he cannot recognize. The only object he remembers is, ironically, his watch which he misunderstands; He is no longer the master of his time.
We are our memories. Once we start losing them, we begin to disintegrate. Hopkins saves an acting master-class in a way to soften Anthony’s edges, and his center collapses, as he desperately tries to capture a life as he has known it. He does this with a mixture of vulnerability and irritability, sparkle and charm, and it is this struggle that Anne recognizes and respects. As the new caretaker, who is taken in by Anthony’s naïve Twinkle when they first meet, and who then begins to feel out of his depth, Imogen Poots is great. And Coleman is amazing as the daughter who is sympathetic to her father’s position, and yet knows that she can no longer handle it on her own. What do you do with hateful love and the constant guilt of abandoning a life that brought you to life? It is one of the most difficult places.
The film is a chamber drama played mostly in flats. But as it progresses, we see how a sinister mind can play tricks on itself: Anthony sees what we see? Through her instrumentation of the two actors playing the same person (Anne, in short, is another face, as played by her husband, Sewell / Gatiss), at times the film feels very clever. Confusion is fine, but it can be confused by too many loops. But we forgive these minor stylistic choices, as it never dominates orgasm, or sentimentality, as it casts its gaze on Anthony: the cruelty of dementia is shared, not only by the victim, but by the victim Even by those who love him the most.
By far, my favorite Hopkin performance has been David Lynch’s 1980’s The Elephant Man. But it can now shore up the past as it shows as an actor managing the impossible: as a man who helplessly disappears, Hopkins is always, spectacularly present.