by Nick Cochran
“The Father,” written and directed by Florian Zeller, is a masterpiece in almost every way imaginable. It explores how dementia affects everything: from you to your life to those around you. “The Father” tells the story of Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) as his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman), attempts to get him the care he needs. However, this film does not simply tell his story; it forces you to understand what dementia is like. This is done through many different tactics including the brilliant screenplay and the unconventional editing choices. Along with these filmmaking techniques, Hopkins’s acting, complemented by the wonderful supporting cast members, enables this movie to truly achieve what it wants to achieve, and the chemistry between Hopkins and the rest of the cast does not go unnoticed.
The screenplay for “The Father” is what truly confuses viewers and throws them for a loop as you try to understand what is going on. It creates a puzzle and fills in the pieces randomly so over time you start to see some parts of the whole picture, but you don’t see the full thing until the screen goes dark and the credits roll. At first, this feels weird and unusual, but as you get further into the film, you will realize it is forcing you to share Anthony’s dementia for an hour and 37 minutes.
Another hugely important, but more subtle, method of confusing viewers is through the editing choices. Unlike other films, “The Father” doesn’t use its editing to give the viewer an indication that time has passed or that the location has changed. Rather, it is edited in a way that leaves the viewer uncertain of the date, time, and location. In doing so, it breaks down what you already know until you are left wondering what to actually believe. The film also utilizes establishing shots in conjunction with the ever-changing environment to throw the viewer for a loop. When in one shot, you think you understand the environment, in the next, the production design has been subtly changed to indicate it may be a completely different one.
Anthony Hopkins, however, is the reason this movie is a must see. His performance is easily one of best of the year. Portraying an old man with dementia believably it is an extremely difficult feat, but Hopkins does just that. He pulls viewers into his world in ways that few others are able to do. He makes you believe everything you see, and even the tiniest of details don’t go unnoticed with his performance through a range of emotions. Most of all, he makes you feel every emotion that Anthony feels. It is also vital to mention the wonderful supporting cast of Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams, and Mark Gatiss. All five actors, led by Colman, support us along the way as we struggle right alongside Anthony. That is to say, they make us believe every twist and turn in this story and enable Hopkins to take us on the wild ride that is “The Father.” It is also Anthony’s relationship with these other characters, supported by Hopkins’s chemistry with each actor, that strengthens the bond the viewer feels with each character.
Nothing about this movie presents any major problems or stumbles on the way in telling this story. That is why “The Father” is a masterpiece and well worth the watch. My only recommendation is that you prepare yourself, as this movie is not an easy watch and will bring many to tears. Viewer discretion is also advised for those who know/have known someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s as this movie could possibly be very difficult to watch for those individuals.