Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell
Directed by Florian Zeller
Written by Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton
Led by the established and brilliant Anthony Hopkins, with recently-untouchable Olivia Colman following in his great footsteps, ‘The Father’ tells the story of a man suffering from a rapidly declining mental health which has caused severe confusion and memory loss. A difficult story to tell, with the perception of such an illness contrasting from person to person, director Florian Zeller does an incredible job – with the help of co-writer Christopher Hampton – adapting his own stage play for the big screen.
Firstly, and perhaps the most discussed aspect of the film, it almost goes without saying that the performances within ‘The Father’ are excellent. Anthony Hopkins stole both the show and the Academy Award for his performance, with his onscreen presence feeling completely natural throughout the entire film. Taking on the role of a person suffering from such an extreme illness, any other performer being cast may have led to some uncertainty about their ability to fulfil such a role, but with Hopkins there was never any doubt about the quality of his acting. A completely natural onscreen presence, his ability to change the momentum and mood of a scene through the simplest of gestures or expression captures the audience’s attention and doesn’t let it go until the credits roll. Furthermore, Olivia Colman is also not one to be forgotten about, playing her part as a supporting character excellently. In recent years she has only shown herself as a greater and greater performer, and the patience and humanity she shows towards Hopkins’ character feels completely real.
Many films have sought to tell the story of mental illness and dementia before, with the impact it has on people’s lives often making for compelling and devastating stories. However, ‘The Father’ stands out from this crowd by utilising the freedom which filmmaking allows to place the audience within the mind of the victim of such a cruel disease. The titular ‘Father’, Anthony, is almost exclusively the character followed by the audience throughout, with moments of confusion within his own mind reflected in the purposefully inconsistent narrative, setting and characters delivered by the filmmakers. By telling the story in this way, director Florian Zeller is able to provide just a small insight into the way the mind works when struggling with such illness, driving home a greatly impactful message about the treatment of those who suffer and the way in which they should be cared for. Seeing through Anthony’s eyes, we are able to sympathise with those who care for him, strongly dislike those who are skeptical and cruel, and ultimately wish the best for the lead character himself, as the confused role he plays within his own life is one which could be taken on by any one of us.
Adapted from Zeller’s own stage play of the same name, watching ‘The Father’ you can see just how the characteristics of theatre are carried across to the world of film. Minimal characters and settings define Anthony’s world, creating a sense of instant familiarity for the audience which only delivers greater heartbreak when they start to become confusing for our lead character. A story which needed telling on a greater scale than just the theatre, the conversion from stage to screen is excellently done.
Though not an easy watch, I highly recommend going out to see ‘The Father’. There’s a reason it’s been so well received amongst critics and audiences alike, with brilliant performances, writing and editing all ultimately contributing to an unmissable film.