'The Father' Review: Anthony Hopkins Is Lost In His Own Home In Florian Zeller's Dense Drama
Trying to convince anyone to check out a movie about a man and his loved ones dealing with his dementia is always an uphill battle but sometimes you just need to go to bat for one. With The Father, we have first-time director Florian Zeller adapting his acclaimed play of the same name to the big screen, screenplay provided by him and Christopher Hampton, and expanded to English language and flats of London.
Anthony Hopkins plays Anthony, the father from the title, an elderly man whose dementia is requiring his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) to take him to live with her and her possibly existing husband; the film is purposefully confusing you whether Anthony's experiences are real, you know. Anne is also looking for a new caregiver, one possible candidate being Laura (Imogen Poots) for instance since he seemingly scared away the previous one. We as an audience follow mainly from Anthony's point of view, trying to piece together what flat we are in and what is truly going on with people going in and out.
An easy way in to this kind of story would be to make the character growth straightforward and dialogue sappy but fortunately for us, Zeller and Hampton have decided not to do that and instead their script goes for the psychological and disorienting, which then puts us in Anthony's state of mind. Then we get to the dialogue which is unbelievably pure and raw, giving the actors a lot to chew on. Hopkins needs to show the character's momentary charm, utter confusion, great pride and the downfall of that same pride, once or twice even in a single scene which he does masterfully. Colman does a lot while acting small as Anne's exhaustion and fear of losing her father comes through in few brilliant closeups, then there is also Poots who has a small part but makes an impact as she strikes an immediate chord with Hopkins and Colman.
You shouldn't feel bad if at any point you forget that this is in fact Zeller's debut because it sure doesn't seem that way. There's an impressive steady heartbeat going from the camera to the sets and to the sonic landscape, only giving room when few moments of repetition (scenes from different point of views give the spotlight to editing but throw you off from Anthony's story) occure.
It becomes noticeable because the film works beautifully when Zeller, production designer Peter Francis and set decorator Cathy Featherstone want you to feel out-of-place, as the changes - sometimes subtle, sometimes aggressive - with the apartments are perfectly on the same wavelength as the screenplay is. Even in your average film about dementia, misplacing your belongings and normally knowing your home even with eyes closed would lend the opportunity for the production design to shine but here it is going above expectations that can make rewatches even more enjoyable. That's not often the case with your first movie.
Smileys: Production design, screenplay, acting, set decoration, editing
Frowneys: Minor flaws with atmosphere and structure
Don't get a flat, get a full one.