Film Review: The Father (2020)

Florian Zeller’s cinematic adaptation of his own play The Father is hauntingly effective, boasting two stunning performances from Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman

“Is there anybody there?”

You can usually expect to see most if not all of the nominated film in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards. But even though Anthony Hopkins took the Oscar for Best Actor, The Father has taken its time to arrive on these shores, rather fortuitously as it turns out as it means that you can actually go to an actual cinema to see it should you desire!

Directed by Florian Zeller and co-written with Christopher Hampton from Zeller’s extraordinarily successful play, The Father is a brutally challenging watch although it might not seem so from the start. Hopkins plays Anthony, an 80-something man who has dementia whose daughter Anne (Colman) is moving to Paris and is getting a carer for him.

But as Zeller maintains Anthony’s perspective as the story unfolds, we’re tumbled into a kaleidoscopic world of uncertainty. The next scene is set in the same apartment but the furniture is all in different places and his daughter is a different woman (played by Olivia Williams). We’re thoroughly disoriented and given perhaps just a smattering of what it might be like to live with such a condition.

The film continues in this vein and Hopkins is just astounding as he attempts to hold his place at the centre, trying to rationalise what is happening, trying to communicate his frustrations with the outside world. It is often devastating and difficult to watch but how could it not be? Colman is superb (back in her instantly engaging Broadchurch mode) bearing the brunt of those frustrations, both emotionally and physically.

There’s also intriguing work from the aforementioned Williams and Mark Gatiss, in the way that their appearances are threaded throughout the film, upsetting as they may ultimately be. Ben Smithard’s cinematography and Yorgos Lamprinos’ editing ties all the pieces together in a visually striking manner and the cumulative effect is hauntingly effective. 

The Father is released in cinemas on 11th June

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