Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Comedy of Errors

Film Review: The Father

20 June 21 words: Hollie Anderson

This slow-paced drama, starring Anthony Hopkins as a man grappling with dementia, makes for a cinema visit you won’t forget any time soon, says Hollie Anderson...

Director: Florian Zeller
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots
Running time: 97 minutes

Before we go any further, we must acknowledge Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar win for Best Actor and the other many awards given for the writing by Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton. Without doubt, these accolades are richly deserved for a storyline and performance that have been so deftly crafted and delicately arranged. 

The Father follows elderly man Anthony (portrayed by Anthony Hopkins) who we soon learn is being part-cared for by his daughter Anne and hired-in help that never seems to stay long in his company. What we soon realise is that Anthony is suffering with dementia. We follow him closely and see events as he does, with his movement from one flat to another and between carers providing the main thrust of the film. 

There is not much more I can tell you about the plot without trying to make guesses at the ‘truth’ of it, or giving too much away. In many respects, not a lot happens in the 97 minutes screen time. 

What period of time are we witnessing? We cannot tell. Where is the film set? London, but don’t know much more than that. Is there a protagonist, someone we trust? No. Is there an enemy? We really can’t be sure. We believe that Anthony is a funny, charming and intelligent gentleman. And, all we have are his version of events, so we have to hold fast to that belief.

There is no moment of happiness or light relief to be found in The Father, though this doesn’t make it any less worthy of merit

Essentially, because of his condition, all the usual tropes and tools used to drive a plot are suspended and blurred as we look at the world through the same confused, distorted eyes of Anthony. All we know is that we are descending with him and we feel every doubt that sends him off balance. It is unpleasant and difficult. Each scene captures heartbreak and pain that we already know cannot be remedied, and we consistently prepare ourselves for his condition and circumstance to worsen – potentially to a point of pure oblivion.  

The small cast is made up entirely of stars. It is always a joy to see Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss and Rufus Sewell on our screens; they float around the character of Anthony with perfect buoyancy – casting light and shade in ways that create even more depth to the piece. 

The score, made entirely of classical music (including The Pearl Fishers by Georges Bizet and King Arthur by Henry Carcell), works well at suggesting Anthony’s status in his former life. It also, through the constant crescendos and despondent vocals, follows the ever-erratic nature of the plot. 

Now, for some honestly. Yes, this film is fantastic and I’m struggling to fault it anywhere. But if you are planning your first cinema trip post lockdown, you may want to go for something more light-hearted. There is no moment of happiness or light relief to be found in The Father, though this doesn’t make it any less worthy of merit. 

Did you know? The film is an adaptation of Zeller’s own play of the same name, and his directorial debut. It was previously adapted for the screen as the French film Floride in 2015.

The Father is out now in cinemas

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now