The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - THE FATHER | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - THE FATHER

the father review
A senile man struggles to make sense of his increasingly confusing world.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Florian Zeller

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams

the father poster

With the aid of fellow playwright Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller adapts his much lauded play The Father for the screen in his equally acclaimed directorial debut.

A portrait of dementia, the film is an unsettling yet sensitive exploration of senility that portrays the condition in almost Lynchian terms as characters blur and fade into one another to the point that the viewer might believe they themselves are being driven mad.

the father review

It opens conventionally enough, with doting daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) breaking the news to her octogenarian father Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) that she's moving to Paris, and thus will have to move him into a nursing home.

Anthony has, to put it bluntly, lost the plot. He's been living with Anne and her husband Paul (Rufus Sewell) since refusing to accept the assistance of home helpers, whom he inevitably accuses of stealing the many watches he loses, but he believes he's still in his own flat.

the father review

At least that's how it seems. We're never really sure what to believe as Zeller injects us into the fractured psyche of his aging protagonist, with a cast of actors playing various versions of themselves. Anne is introduced in the form of Colman, only to later appear played by Olivia Williams. Similarly, we meet Paul first in the form of Mark Gatiss before he later appears as Sewell. We're never sure who is whom, or where the drama is actually playing out. To confuse things further, a carer played by Imogen Poots is referred to as being the double of Anthony's daughter, who died several years before but who he believes is still alive.

Along with placing us in the muddied head of Anthony, it's the character of Anne who acts as a cipher for that segment of the audience who find themselves with an aging parent and the prospect of one day finding they no longer recognise the child they raised. Anne has clearly done her best by her father but the old man treats her with something approaching contempt, constantly comparing her to her late sister. So put down is she by her father that when he makes the minimal effort to be nice – complimenting her hair – she breaks out in the beaming smile of a woman who has been taken back to the happier days of her childhood when she was the one being looked after. That Anne is played by Colman, one of the most likeable actresses around, makes her guilt-induced suffering all the more difficult to witness.

the father review

As great as Colman is however, this is very much the Anthony Hopkins show. After decades of appearing in straight to video schlock, it's thrilling to see him given the sort of meaty role an actor of his standing deserves. His Anthony is by turns scary, funny, charming and ultimately pathetic in a final scene that's so well acted it almost feels as if special effects are involved as Hopkins appears to regress to childhood before our eyes. One of the marks of a great actor is how well they can convey the act of thinking. Here, Hopkins spends much of his time running thoughts through his head and coming up empty as his memories betray him. In those expressive, heavy-lidded eyes we see a man desperately trying to maintain his dignity, but for whom time has beaten him down.

For anyone either approaching old age themselves or with loved ones at such a milestone, The Father is a sobering, difficult watch, more disturbing than any horror movie. It's a warts-and-all glimpse of a future we're all set to face, and that's if we're lucky enough to make it that far. But watching Hopkins face his own mortality through a role that must have given him pause for thought is enough to get you through the darkness, like a senile parent suddenly remembering a long forgotten childhood detail.

The Father is on Netflix UK/ROI now.