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The Father – Movie Review

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The Father – Movie Review

Rating: A (Fantastic)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

A parent having dementia is a hard thing for anyone to have to deal with, made even worse by not really knowing what’s going on inside of their head. With The Father, director Florian Zeller (adapting his own play) puts us inside of the lead protagonist Anthony’s head, thus giving us a greater understanding of what he’s going through. The result is an outstanding feat of writing and editing as we try to make sense of it all. However, this isn’t all done just for art’s sake, but rather to create a needed empathy for his situation. The film also shows his daughter Anne’s perspective and it results in a story where we’re not sure what is reality and what is fiction.

At first, The Father appears conventional in its storytelling. Eventually, Zeller has things change on a dime and we’re stuck in the same uncertain state as Anthony. We try to put the pieces together as best as we can and that keeps our engagement through the entire runtime. The film effectively shows Anthony’s progression and state of mind and his own growing distrust of everything happening to him. A huge amount of credit for the movie’s success goes to editor Yorgos Lamprino. This could not have been an easy film to stitch together, but he keeps things moving swiftly and knows exactly when to cut to the next scene.

Anthony is in most of the movie, but there are also scenes where Anne is the focus. We see the struggle she faces and the difficult decisions she has to make, giving us two sympathetic points of view. The acting is tremendous, with Anthony Hopkins delivering some of his finest work here. He captures all of the needed emotions, but what’s most impressive is the physical part of his performance. There are scenes where he’s not saying anything, but his body language conveys so much. Even though we’re meeting this character at this point in his life, we somehow learn a lot about him through his actions and how he talks about himself.

Olivia Colman also delivers a heartbreaking performance as Anne. She’s trying her best to keep herself under control in her father’s presence, but we can sense how tricky that is. Zeller fills out the cast with other actors, who fill the required roles. Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell and Mark Gatiss all deliver fine work and help add to the confusion Anthony is feeling. The Father also manages to touch on other issues facing those in Anthony’s condition, like elderly abuse and being unnecessarily condescended towards. Somehow, Zeller is able to fit all of these themes into the movie’s tight 97-minute runtime.

The Father will probably be difficult to watch for anyone who has seen a parent become diagnosed with dementia or other similar conditions, as Florian Zeller doesn’t shy away from the heartbreak of that situation. However, he’s definitely coming at it with a need to provide sympathy and we end up as concerned for Anthonny as his daughter is. By structuring the story in this manner, we end up asking some of the same questions as Anthony. It’s a powerful piece of work and an impressive film directing debut for the longtime playwright.

Stefan Ellison

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