The Father

Small-scale, big emotional impact

What’s The Movie? The Father

What’s It All About, JG? What it’s about is Anthony Hopkins giving an Oscar-worthy performance, but more specifically it’s about Anthony, an old man suffering from dementia trying to navigate his way through a life which he sees as entirely rational yet which clearly isn’t. There are details that escape him, sometimes small things like where he’s left his watch, and sometimes much larger things, like failing to remember what happened to his “other” daughter, never explicitly revealed though implicitly she’s dead – there’s reference to an “accident” but little more detail is forthcoming. Sometimes when he’s looking at his daughter he sees a different woman. Sometimes when he’s talking to her… husband? boyfriend? …. he sees different men. We slide in and out of Anthony’s perspective throughout the movie, always seeing things from his point of view, until finally it ends with him in a nursing home being cared for and it’s unclear how much, if any, of the details we have seen have represent reality.

Why Did You Give It A Go? Because of its stellar reputation, really. I mean, I’ll watch anything Olivia Colman is in regardless, but given that she got an Oscar nod and Hopkins actually won viewing this was less of a choice and more of an inevitability.

Is It Any Good? Often the problem with films like this – especially ones which are wholly dependent on a singular, central, award-winning performance – is that they get so hyped up that it becomes not only impossible to approach them objectively but also impossible to appreciate without getting distracted by whether they’re going to live up to all that hype. So it is rare, then, to come across a film like The Father which not only lives up to the hype but pretty much exceeds it. I give not one single, solitary, unique fuck about the Oscars yet there’s no question that Hopkins deserves his award – it’s a career-best performance in a career that’s already littered with awards left right and centre. His central performance anchors everything about the film and it is one of the most impressive performances imaginable, full of detail and precision which allows us to fully explore and understand what it is Anthony is going through. It is also unbelievably moving – the confusion, anger and bewildering whirl of events that he tries to navigate while incapacitated by one of the most evil diseases imaginable is genuinely powerful in a way cinema almost never is, and perfectly encapsulates the horrors of having your personality and rationality stolen from you one agonising piece at a time. “Good” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

How Many Of These Have You Watched? A fair few Hopkins movies and pretty much everything Olivia Colman has done, I believe. 

Would You Recommend It? Without a nanosecond’s hesitation, although with a warning that it strikes very close to home for anyone familiar with someone who has suffered from dementia so be prepared for something which is going to bring up a lot of very difficult emotions. The supporting cast here deserve a mention too – Colman is, naturally, fantastic, but it’s the junior role in the film and though she’s characteristically great it’s both a character and performance which is subservient to the lead. The rest of the cast – Imogen Poots, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell and Mark Gatiss, of all people – are similarly great but also not really the point of the exercise. They’re all there to support that towering lead, and they do that incredibly well. It’s also refreshing to see a performer of Hopkins stretching himself in this way – especially after his Marvel performances as Odin it would have been easy for him to fall into the de Niro / Al Pacino trap of just mugging through one sub-standard performance after another and coasting on reputation alone. Hopkins doesn’t, and the sheer quality of the performance shows just how much gas is left in the tank, even at this stage. His lead here is everything, obviously, and without just lapsing back into a string of extremely complimentary adjectives it’s difficult to know what else to say. Certainly the film (and the play it’s based on) take a fantastic conceit in terms of seeing everything from Anthony’s perspective and allow us to see just how difficult and heartbreaking his life is, and it is in that perspective that we get the full depth of emotion because it’s impossible not to understand just what it is he is going through. This is, simply, a perfect movie that sets out to explore the life of a dementia sufferer and does it better than any other film ever has, supported by a perfect, immaculate central performance. It’s pretty much perfect.

Scores On The Doors? 10/10

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