The Father is written and directed by Florian Zeller, based on his playwright from 2012, and stars Sir Anthony Hopkins; it is about an elder Londoner struggling with dementia. As he struggles with accepting this disease, his daughter Anne informs him of her decision to move away. You don’t need me to tell you this movie is excellent; it has won multiple awards and it has arrived very late to where I live, so you’ve probably already seen it or heard of its brilliance. Thus, this will be a short one; I have nothing new to add, besides more praise for the movie and the filmmakers.
Going in, I expected the Oscar-winning performance from Sir Anthony Hopkins to be the highlight – which it was – but, I didn’t expect the impressive soundtrack by Ludovico Einaudi. A stellar, orchestral composition that escalates the chaos, pulls the heart-strings, and gives a melancholic ambience in equal measure with unquestionable effects. Furthermore, I found the editing to be pitch perfect for what this movie needed; understandable chaos. The movie’s intent is to show dementia from the patient’s viewpoint; one moment you’re talking to your daughter about one thing, the next you’re talking to a stranger who claims to be your daughter about another thing. This is the movie’s best feature. It conveys a depiction of that in a way that allows the viewer to soak in all the details and the performances, but still feel lost and disoriented (without actually being that). Obviously, the director, actors, and entire crew are responsible for this, but special credit should go to the editor, Yorgos Lamprinos, as he does an excellent job juggling the clarity required to enjoy the movie and the necessity of the chaos for the experience.
Zeller’s directing is also top-notch with the cast being in sync with each other, but also some neat visual techniques and some nice imagery thrown in to spice up a movie that is mainly set in an apartment. However, his Oscar-winning writing (alongside Christopher Hampton) is borderline perfect; I struggle to think of a line that felt out of place or a moment wasted. The ending in particular is a study-worthy showing of a group of creators nailing something extremely difficult.
Lastly, you can’t talk about this movie and not talk about the acting of both Sir Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman. Their combined talents, alongside the solid directing, work wonders in making a movie that can be too chaotic and too heart-wrenching palatable and enjoyable. Their relationship mirrors the relationship of the audience and Antony as well; at first he will seem erratic and chaotic, but once the audience gets a glimpse of what he goes through on a daily basis the perspective changes. Dementia is not a solidary disease where one person endures suffering while their family offers support and to shelter the mental burden of that disease. It is just as damaging for a father to not recognize his daughter, as it is for the daughter to not be recognized by her father.
If I had one complain it would be that there are a few moments that don’t actually feel as chaotic as they should, because of the fact that we are watching a movie and the dialogue is written (and presented) with that in mind. Information that would be earth-shattering to Antony are not to the audience or Antony re-learning an already known thing is played down for the sake of the movie; this is a good choice, but it is also one of the few times the audience feels disconnected from Antony and his viewpoint.
Just like the movie I want to keep this review, nice and concise. The Father is a brilliant movie that should be seen for its brilliant writing and acting in particular. You can have nitpicks with it, you can not want the experience it is trying to provide, but it is unquestionably one of the best movies of the year and worthy of the praise it has gotten so far (and will probably keep receiving).