Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Availability: Local cinemas
Plot: Considered a ‘genius’ by Le Figaro, and described as ‘the most exciting new theatre writer of our time’ by The Times, the forty-one year old French novelist Florian Zellar takes his play, The Father, from stage to screen in this extraordinary new film. It is a story about a father and daughter trying to navigate and understand the onset of dementia and the ways in which it influences family dynamics and the perceptions of people experiencing the most devastating impact of brain function decline. It is a world in which it’s hard to distinguish current reality, flashbacks, dreams or hallucinations.
Cast: Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman are both outstanding as the film’s two main characters, Anthony and his daughter, Anne. It is Hopkins though, in his depiction of an old man plagued and tormented by dementia, who ultimately carries the drama. Flirting with his new caregiver one moment, then cuttingly cruel to his daughter the next, his emotional range is remarkable. He is absolutely at the top of his game in this film, and it unsurprising that he was successful as best actor in the Oscars earlier this week.
Filming and setting: Zellar also won the best-adapted screenplay Oscar for The Father, which he adapted from his highly acclaimed play of the same name. Again, this is no surprise. Exploring the world through the eyes of the increasingly confused dementia sufferer, involves us in a shared confusion. Zellar uses subtle, almost imperceptible changes, to create Anthony’s changing world – one moment the kitchen tiles are shades of brown and orange, the next they are blue. Are we in the same kitchen? Are we in the same apartment? One moment his daughter is clearly played by Colman, then a different actor enters the scene as Anne. Anthony is suspicious – and so are we, as we try to work out who is this woman? Something isn’t right…he knows it, and so do we. The film is clever, discombobulating, and with disturbingly sinister elements. It’s a masterclass of filming and the use of setting to undermine meaning and create uncertainty.
Personal Comments: This is a brilliant film. It is heartbreaking, but curiously not depressing. Rather, it’s an exploration of family dynamics presented through fractured storytelling that remains with you long after you leave the theatre.