No film has ever punched me in the stomach as hard as The Father. There were times throughout this film were it felt like I had been punched in the stomach, not just lightly but to the point where I was struggling to breath as I watched this film play out.
Dementia is no light subject matter in my family. I watched my once vibrant Grandmother go from being an award winning lawn bowler to not being able to recognise her own children all within just a few years. As a teenager I remember seeing how terrified my family were as they were forced to watch my Grandmother go through this and to be honest I never thought that I would ever see a film that could capture dementia in the way that The Father does.
The eerie thing about The Father is that writer/director Florian Zeller (Florida) does not tell this story through the eyes of children or grand-children, he tells the story through the eyes of the dementia patient himself, Anthony (Anthony Hopkins – The Silence Of The Lambs).
The result is as an audience you never really know what is real or not when you watch this film. Early on Anthony seems happy is his London apartment, his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman – The Favourite), visits and tells him that he has to learn to get along with his new nurse because she has met someone and is moving to Paris.
Soon strangers appear in Anthony’s flat – some are nice, some are abusive, various nurses stop by, items go by – it is complete chaos and as you watch the film you start to wonder whether all of this might be real and that Anthony is being sucked into a scam.
Zeller never makes this a comfortable watch for the viewer. You find that your mind is racing at a million miles an hour as you try to piece together exactly what is happening. Faces change, rooms change and to be honest it can become completely over-bearing and lose its audience if you don’t try to concentrate on exactly what is happening right in front of your eyes. I’ve heard people say ‘I took my attention from the screen for a moment and suddenly I was completely lost’ but honestly how anybody could lose interest with what it is happening through this riveting film has me lost for words.
I have always held Anthony Hopkins in the highest most regard when it comes to acting. To me he is one of the best actors of our generation and I even find the films of his that people like to criticise like The Rite are compelling to watch simply because he is in them. Hell, he even made the mess that was Transformers: The Last Knight watchable. But here with The Father Hopkins takes his acting to a whole new level – this isn’t just a great acting performance this is one of the best acting performances we have ever seen on screen. If Hopkins doesn’t walk away with an Oscar for The Father than a cinematic travesty will have occurred.
The Father is a sheer cinematic masterpiece. This is the kind of film that all film school students should be made watch to learn how to bring a story to the screen. As a film it doesn’t hold back and it delivers one hell of a cinematic lesson to its audience.