The Father is the gripping, heartbreaking debut feature from Florian Zeller about a man’s battle with dementia and the loss of identity. Anthony Hopkins stars in a performance that will surely earn him an Oscar nomination, as both he and the audience are consistently forced to question what is real and what is not.
Framed from the perspective of Anthony (Hopkins) as he struggles with his mental state and refuses to lose his independence, Zeller disorients viewers through repeating conversations, shifting surroundings, and even having multiple characters play the same role. By the time the credits roll, you can piece together what really happened and when – if you aren’t too busy crying / scared of getting dementia yourself, obviously.
Olivia Colman plays Anthony’s daughter Anne, who struggles to come to terms with how bad her father’s illness has gotten and the decision she must make on putting him in a care home – Colman is, as always, fantastic and showcases the stresses of being a caregiver. Olivia Williams, who also plays Anne at points (which is very well done), also delivers a great performance.
The Father feels like a mix of heavy family drama with elements of psychological horror thrown in to boot. Anthony’s moods and mental state shift so erratically you never know what kind of scene you’re about to watch – you can be laughing one moment and then, very quickly, feel tense and anxious. Hallucinations pop in and out so frequently it is a tormenting challenge both for Anthony and the viewer to keep up with the story you’re being told.
I know one of my biggest fears about getting old is forgetting who I am and losing my own identity – seeing it portrayed so effectively on the big screen is terrifying. The Father is powerful and confronts you with the realities of dementia head-on. It’s undoubtedly a stressful watch, but an incredible feature nonetheless and one that will certainly generate a lot of conversation upon theatrical release. A worthy five stars.