The Father (Florian Zeller, 2020, UK/France)

     The Father is the debut feature from French playwright Florian Zeller. With Anthony Hopkins as the titular father, and Olivia Colman as his daughter Anne, the film has awards bait written all over it. Zeller has adapted the film from his own play, and the film clearly bears the lineage of its origin. That being said, Zeller's script plays with time and memory in interesting ways, keeping the storytelling dynamic. 

    The Father tells the story of Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an aging man who is dealing with progressive dementia. While we are initially led to believe he is living on his own, it turns out that he has been living with his daughter and her husband for several years. This is one of the many surprises the film introduces as it runs its course. One interesting device the script uses is having multiple characters play the same role. Imogen Poots takes on a role as Anthony's deceased daughter Lucy, but she also appears as the nurse Anne hires - Laura. Likewise, both Anne and her husband Paul are portrayed by two actors. We later learn that the alternate actors representing these two figures are Anthony's nurses in a nursing home.

    The film is anchored by Anthony Hopkins, who seems to come out of the woodwork for an Awards role every so often these days, in between direct-to-VOD fare. He portrays Anthony's decline with great pathos, vacillating between despair at times and rage at others. The film compares favourably with similar films dealing with the subject of cognitive decline, including Michael Haneke's Amour and Richard Glatzer/Wash Westmoreland's Still Alice. The film luckily does not overstay its welcome, clocking in at a brief 97 minutes. Any longer, and the film might have felt too dour and depressing. The Father is worth experiencing once.



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