Director Florian Zeller’s ‘The Father’, adapted from his play of the same name, is a masterpiece. The film is inherently an immersive experience as it fabulously showcases the headspace of someone losing their memory.
With moving and vulnerable performances from its ace cast, and shifting through real and hallucinating scenarios, the narrative unravels the empathetic and heart-breaking experience that works as a puzzle to decode but also as a character piece to understand.
Through its non-linear narrative, the film delves into the life of Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an ordinary octogenarian. Not much is known about Anthony before his gradual mental decline, but over the period of time, we realise that he lived alone for more than 30 years in his apartment in London.
His daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) used to come and visit him, and through her we learn that Anthony in his typical crabby behaviour has forced his most recent caregiver to quit. You feel sorry for Anthony when he says, “I feel as if I’m losing all my leaves.”
Anne could hire another caregiver, but then, with her father’s “I can manage on my own” attitude, life seems difficult for her. Till she tells him, she is moving to Paris to be with the man she loves and that it’s probably time to shift, not telling the audience where to.
This chamber-piece drama with an exceptional script has the artistic dynamism to keep twisting the reality it shows us without becoming a stunt. Faces and places switch – exactly as it would for Anthony. What add to the flavour are the spirited dialogues and the sequences of events with which the viewer sees and understands.
Anthony Hopkins portrays the protagonist Anthony with natural ease. He keeps you spellbound with his heart-rending performance through a gamut of emotions that shift rapidly. Maintaining his dignity throughout, he could be gregarious and charming for a moment and cold and paranoid at another, or cruel and hurting, but often he is confused and afraid. Throughout, his emotions are palpable.
He is ably supported by Olivia Colman, a fantastic actress who plays his concerned daughter Anne to perfection. Her character is as central as Anthony’s. With a mix of hurt and resignation flashing in her eyes, she wears the pain of anyone who has had to deal with a similar situation.
The duo is ably supported by Rufus Sewell as Anne’s husband Paul, Olivia Williams and Imogen Poots as caretakers, Mark Gatiss as the Man and Ayesha Dharker in a minuscule role as Dr Sarai. Overall, ‘The Father’ is not a simple watch. It is a work of genius that will emotionally, or mentally, sweep you off your feet.
–By Troy Ribeiro
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