The Father (2021) — Mini Review
A well-staged tale of growing old that hardly anyone will watch.
Director: Florian Zeller
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman
Here are some basic facts about THE FATHER: It’s a french-British coproduction; it’s based on director Florian Zeller’s play, “Le Père,” from a script penned by Zeller, himself; It stars two Oscar-wining actors giving some of their best work in spite of the insular constraints of the material; it’s the recipient of six academy award nominations for the 93rd academy awards. To top it all off, no one in the general audience has seen this film.
THE FATHER’s position in the mainstream conversation isn’t unique. It’s hurdles are wholly felt by indie films of a similar ilk — small, independent productions that piggy-back off the momentum of the late-winter awards race. Now, the question at hand: Is this awards-bait, or does THE FATHER aspire to something greater? Theres good news, guys. THE FATHER is excellent.
Anthony Hopkins stars in the story of Anthony, a doddering old man who struggles with the inevitable disease of old age. He’s stern and pithy to a fault, causing rifts between him and loved ones, save his loving and devoted daughter, Anne, played by Olivia Coleman. What the film explores over its roughly ninety-minute run touches on our perennial concerns surrounding responsibility and loyalty.
Despite his loosening grip on reality, Anthony feels by no means beholden to the whims of an overbearing daughter and belittling son-in-law — the man would agree, himself. But what if it’s simply too late? THE FATHER presents an unsettling portrait of a man clutching to a misguided sense of security, spurred by forgetfulness and double meaning that manifests on screen in a dizzying manner.
Are we sure that what we’re seeing on screen is really happening? Are the sequences of events coherent? There is a genuinely disconcerting feeling stewing in the bottom of our stomachs that progressively notches up along with Anthony’s spurts of paranoia.
Hopkins, the actor, is anything but doddering. The veteran thespian’s command of the screen continues into old age, delivering an incredibly sad and frightful performance in a string of pointed performances spanning the last 5 years. Sure, he certainly isn’t as mobile as he was as Hannibal Lector, but what’s here is sufficient for the medium of the stage. It’s his stern hardheadedness that dyes his character in an overall tragic hue. It’s only shame that few will witness Hopkin’s late-stage triumph.
Olivia Coleman doesn’t necessarily aspire towards something outside of the material’s purview. She plays the part of the supporting female character and that’s perfectly fine. Coleman’s strengths, like all great actors, lie in her sophisticated inference. She knows her piece of the puzzle and doesn’t tread into something that might hinder Hopkin’s run. As Anne, she takes on her father’s baggage out of a sense of familial loyalty — one tested by a tentative husband played by Rufus Sewell.
THE FATHER makes clever use cutting and sequencing. Though there are sparse moments where the contrivances of the stage sour some of the excitement. I’ll leave the particulars of the craftsmanship to a minimum out of respect for some of the clever sequences in THE FATHER which deserve first-hand viewing to fully appreciate.
THE FATHER, I’ll say again, deserves viewing because it features a master in the sort of performances unthinkable of a man his age. It also features Coleman as a master in the making. Reason enough to warrant the streaming premium, if you ask me.
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