Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in THE FATHER

‘The Father’: A frightening and heartbreaking film that could earn Anthony Hopkins his next Oscar

Written by Molly Magennis / @mollymag3

The Father directed by Florian Zeller, stars Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman and is based on the 2012 stage play of the same name which Zeller also wrote and developed. 

The premise of this film is simple. Hopkins plays an elderly man named Anthony, who refuses all help and assistance from his daughter Anne (Olivia Coleman) under the belief he is fully capable of looking after himself. When Anne’s life circumstances change and it becomes clear she is unable to care for him solely on her own, Anthony struggles to come to terms with the situation and his reality slowly unravels around him.

Although it is never mentioned nor confirmed, it’s clear from the outset that Hopkin’s character suffers from Dementia. But it’s the skillful way in which Zeller depicts this, that makes this film so impressive.

We are told Anne has fallen in love with a man who lives in Paris, and she intends to go and live with him, hence the insistence that a carer is brought in to assist her father. Only, a short time later, we’re introduced to a new character, claiming to be Anne’s husband of 10 years. As you would expect, Anthony finds this quite confusing.

What follows throughout the rest of the film is this kind of constant contradiction, Anthony is told something, only to then be told something else completely different not long after. One minute Anne is Olivia Coleman, and the next, she is a completely different woman.

Zeller is also clever in how he frames these ‘transitions’ between characters, which occur mostly in Anthony’s apartment. During the first half of the film, if you look closely, you’ll notice slight changes in the objects and props in the background, most noticeably in the hallway of his apartment. The changes in the appearance of the apartment become clearer as the film progresses and as Anthony continues to deteriorate.

Not only is Anthony questioning his own sanity, but I felt I was too. It was terrifying. But I think the most frightening aspect of it all, was this situation is entirely feasible. It’s a circumstance many of us are likely to face, whether that be in the position of the child, having to come to terms with a parent whose mind is deteriorating, or as the elderly person themselves. It’s entirely possible that we may experience both, and that is scary.

Hopkins’ performance in this film is outstanding, and I’d argue it’s some of his best work in years. He is so believable in this role, and his ability to go from being charming and amusing to distraught and in complete paranoia is spectacular to watch. 

This film is going to hit a nerve with a lot of people. It’s unsettling and heartbreaking, but also a beautifully written and directed film, with stellar performances all around. It’s a major contender as we delve deeper into awards season, and I implore you to go and see this film which has the potential to be the best of 2021. Yep, I said it. 

The Father opens in cinemas April 1.

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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