London today. A forty-five-year-old woman named Ann (Olivia Colman) arrives at the apartment of her father, Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), octogenarian, a man who has developed noticeable senile dementia. Ann in a conversation scolds her father for kicking out another nurse, whom Ann found with such difficulty for him. Anthony tells his daughter that he can serve himself perfectly, so he does not need any nurses. And the nurse in question, he kicked out, because she is a thief, she stole his watch.
There really is no watch on Anthony, he has been constantly losing them lately, but Ann suggests that her father look in his hiding place in the bathroom, and indeed, the watch ends up there.
Ann tells her father that she is going to go to Paris: after years of divorce from her former husband, she has a new man in her life and plans to move in with him. But she cannot leave her father in this state unattended, and he is categorically against the presence of a nurse in his apartment. He is also very offended by his daughter because she wants to leave him alone in London.
The director of this film, Florian Zeller, is a French writer and playwright, one of the most eminent modern theater playwrights: his plays are successfully staged in theaters around the world. His play “Father”, written in 2012, is part of the trilogy “Father”, “Mother” and “Son”. These plays by Zeller were staged and staged in United States: in the Moscow theater “Sovremennik” there is a play “Father” with Sergei Shakurov and Victoria Tolstoganova, there is a private performance “Father” with Sergei Makovetsky, in the RAMT Yuri Butusov staged the play “Son” by Zeller.
Florian himself thought about transferring the performance to a full-length film: initially he was going to make a film in French with French actors, but he really wanted Anthony Hopkins to play the role of Andre (that’s the name of the main character in the play), and when the actor agreed, Zeller decided to shoot this film in English with British actors and in honor of Hopkins renamed the main character Anthony. Zeller’s play was translated into English by Christopher Hampton, who, along with Zeller, is listed as co-author of the script.
I did not watch the play “Father”, so I did not know anything about what I would see in this film. And here it turned out that Zeller chose a rather unusual form in order to talk about this serious illness – very difficult both for the person himself and for his relatives and friends.
The director shows what is happening with Anthony, as if through his eyes. Through the eyes of a person who ceases to recognize loved ones, in whose mind various events slowly begin to fade, he does not always understand exactly where he is and why, and in the end he ceases to understand who he is at all.
And the audience, while watching the film, also finds itself, as it were, in the position of Anthony: they quickly realize that one can not really trust what this person sees, because some of the people he sees are real, others can simply be superimposed from some then the surviving memories – in general, it’s not so easy to deal with this, but with the help of this format, the creators of the picture demonstrate what it’s like for Anthony himself to face this.
At the same time, of course, we are watching this person from the outside. How he denies the fact that his consciousness is beginning to fade, how he implacably meets attempts to help him, how he develops various paranoid moods and begins to insult Ann, who is very difficult because of her father, and his presence can destroy her family life but she keeps pulling on that strap.
The role of Anthony Hopkins in this film is something incredible! In the behavior of his character there is a huge number of the most diverse, and rather subtle psychological shades. How he denies his condition (Anthony often repeats the phrase “don’t you think I’m crazy”), how he falls into a rage, while he can be incredibly charming with the person he likes (there is an absolutely amazing episode, like he meets a new nurse, Laura, who reminded him of Lucy’s second daughter: she died a long time ago, but Anthony no longer remembers this and is surprised that Lucy has not come to visit him for a long time).
And there is such a wide palette of feelings and emotions that it seems almost unbelievable how Hopkins managed to convey it all: he, of course, is an outstanding actor, and this role is simply a masterpiece.
The rest of the roles pale against the backdrop of such a powerful acting performance by Hopkins, but I just can’t agree with those reviewers who say that other actors simply had nothing to play here, well, and that they supposedly don’t strain too much. This is absolutely not true.
Olivia Colman has a complex, subtle role here, and she played it perfectly. Ann understands what is happening to her father, it frightens her, she tries to help him, but at the same time she needs to do something with her own life: people with senile dementia are gradually turning into such kind of “black holes” that can drag other people into it and turn their lives in hell. They, of course, are in no way to blame for this themselves, but this does not make it easier for their loved ones. And Olivia, in my opinion, very clearly and reliably showed the stages that her heroine goes through, watching how her father’s illness gradually progresses.
Rufus Sewell in the film played Ann’s new husband Paul, who is terribly annoyed by the presence of Anthony in their lives: Paul, for obvious reasons, has no family feelings for Anthony, he is just an “old man in senile insanity” for him, which spoils the life of his wife and to himself, and Paul behaves exactly as husbands / wives behave towards a relative of the spouse / spouse in a similar situation. Paul generally believes that his father deliberately harasses Ann and that he is not so sick at all, but it’s just that he has such a character trait.
Charming Imogen Poots played Laura, a nurse, with the presence of which in the apartment Anthony seemed to be more or less resigned. She played very well, and there, from the episodes of her communication with Anthony, it was clear how difficult the task is for people working in such a job – caring for old people with dementia.
Some critics reproach the director for the fact that the picture, they say, turned out to be too theatrical (I usually read almost only critical reviews for films that I liked, and only laudatory reviews for films that I didn’t like). The same Stanislav Zelvensky reproaches the film for being theatrical, and even writes about the finale that, I quote: “Probably, in the theater, the emotional finale of “Father” looks piercing; the way it is done here, especially the last point, I’m sorry, but this is vulgarity “. And it was absolutely surprising, because to call this piercing and so completely understandable and expected finale “vulgarity” – well, I really don’t know what to say here.
I don’t see any such special theatricality in the picture, but here, for obvious reasons, everything happens literally in two or three locations, but it’s all filmed very skillfully and interestingly: Anthony’s apartment seems to be a kind of slightly intricate labyrinth that is constantly changing, also the main the hero periodically, as if straight from the apartment, finds himself in other places when he recalls some events that have almost disappeared from his memory. This is done impressively, and while watching this picture (I don’t read any reviews and don’t collect any information before watching it), I didn’t even imagine that it was based on the famous performance.
I already wrote about the claims that the rest of the actors here, they say, have nothing to play: this is absolutely not true. Also, one of the reviews contains a very funny claim that when Anthony does not recognize Ann, portrayed by actress Olivia Williams in this episode (it later explains where she came from in Anthony’s vague mind), then, I quote, “this is not surprising, because that Williams is so similar to Colman that in the hallway you can confuse them even without dementia.
An excellent film: a wonderful script, a professional production (and this is Zeller’s film debut), wonderful acting work and a really outstanding performance by Anthony Hopkins. Add to this the artfully chosen music (some of his favorite compositions were suggested by Hopkins himself, from what I read) and the masterful work of cinematographer Ben Smithhard – so it’s not surprising that this picture won two Oscars (Best Male role” and “Best Adapted Screenplay”) out of six nominations, similar two wins out of six BAFTA nominations, and the Spanish Goya Award in 2021 as “Best European Film”. But at the Golden Globe, the film had four nominations and not a single win.
Don’t miss this movie. This is one of the best films of 2020 in my opinion.
Father / The Father movie review
Director: Florian Zeller Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Ayesha Dharker, Roman Zeller, Ray Burnet, Ednan Kundi
Drama, UK-France, 2020, 97 min.