A man who refuses any care or help starts to experience the effects of aging.
Every once in a while, you get a film that completely changes your perspective on what it means to be a person living in the present time. “The Father” is one of those films. Directed and written by Florian Zeller — a french novelist and playwright known for his novel “La Fascination du pire.” “The Father” is a drama/thriller, adapted from Zeller’s French play “Le Père,” about a man at the end of his life. The film follows him as he slowly comes to the realization that his memory is slowly fading along with his perception of reality.
The film starts off with a woman named Anne, played by Olivia Colman, visiting her father Anthony, played by none other than Anthony Hopkins. Due to his stubbornness, Anthony has a hard time letting people help him. And since she is soon leaving for Paris to follow a French man, Anne has to hire someone else to take care of him.
After some confusion and opposition regarding her decision to move away, Anthony comes across someone he’s never met before who claims to be married to Anne. Wait, isn’t Anne moving away to Paris? And how did this man get in his apartment? Later, Anne comes home, however, this time Anne is played by actress Olivia Williams and Anthony doesn’t recognize her at all and has to convince himself that she is Anne.
This marks one of the main important themes and recurring motifs in the film; dementia and Alzheimers. Having the film presented in a way that is purposely disorienting through Anthony’s point of view depicts the effects of aging. This film is through Anthony’s eyes instead of his family members’. There are moments in which we do see what Anne is thinking, but only briefly to foreshadow events and build tension.
In this way, the film does not hold your hand through its narrative. It requires the viewer to pay close attention to certain key moments that repeat, which key you in, little by little, as to what is actually happening. With that being said, I found some moments to be perplexing and definitely disorienting on the first watch.
In these moments of realization, I really enjoyed the accompaniment of the soundtrack that helped clue me in on important moments. The entirety of the soundtrack, consisting of soothing symphonies and swooning orchestras, is very pleasant to listen to.
Either way, I have never seen storytelling like this before. The closest films that I could compare this one to would probably be Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New york” (2008) or more recently “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (2020). These films delve deep into the human psyche and “The Father”is no exception, exploring these concepts as well.
However, I argue that this film has a more obvious, less confusing reason as to why things happen the way they do compared to films directed or written by Kaufman. “The Father” is a bit less surreal and more realistic.
Anthony Hopkins gives one of the best performances of his career. His character is both charming and subversive. He adds a magical feeling in each scene within every strange and disorienting interaction.
There is, however, some dialogue that was a bit surprising. Anthony uses antiquated, ableist language. Not sure if that was left in to showcase the character’s age and personality, but nonetheless it didn’t sit too well with me. Anthony is by no means a good person, which is also reflected in his repeated memories of his son in law calling him out on him being rude to everyone.
This film was truly heartbreaking, and the more I think about it the more meaning that I pull out of it to translate into my own life. It will especially be devastating for those who have family members who are also going, or have gone, through this with a loved one. If you are looking for a film that is dramatic in its storytelling and successfully creates tension and drama in innovative ways, then “The Father” definitely deserves your time.
Availability: Currently in theaters and available to purchase on Amazon.
Title: “The Father”
Star Rating: Five out of Five stars
- Incredible and innovative storytelling
- Performances are very well done
- Really good soundtrack
- Slow at moments
- Can be very confusing and disorienting
- Antiquated language in the writing