By Lynn Venhaus
Without sentimentality, “The Father” depicts a man’s growing dementia and the sheer terror of the disorientation he feels as he doesn’t realize what is happening as he loses his grip on reality. In a bravura performance, Anthony Hopkins draws us into his world as we are caught as off-guard as he is.
Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is a learned, successful man who refuses his daughter Anne’s (Olivia Colman) assistance as he ages. He begins to doubt her and other loved ones as he tries to make sense of what’s going on around him. The story is adapted from the play by Florian Zeller, who has directed this film
Many families endure these same situations as matriarchs and patriarchs age, so this is a relatable journey that hits close to home as we watch a proud, intelligent, successful man decline and his family feels helpless in response.
Because of the film’s honesty, it is a hard watch, but its shared humanity is what gets us through the experience.
Florian Zeller, who wrote the 2012 play, “La Pere” in his native tongue, won the 2014 Moliere Award for Best Play in France. The play went on to open in London and on Broadway, with Frank Langella winning his fourth Tony Award for his performance as the title character. The English translation by playwright Christopher Hampton, Oscar winner for “Dangerous Liaisons,” is what is used for the film adaptation.
With sly editing and deft production design, we are kept guessing about the time and place, and what’s going on in Hopkins’ residence and in his head.
Because it is adapted from a play, “The Father” can’t really outgrow its stage constraints.
The ensemble is first-rate, particularly Olivia Colman as his adult daughter. We feel her pain acutely.
Both Hopkins and Colman have received much acclaim for their performances, and with Oscar nominations March 15, one can predict their names will be on the short lists.
While Hopkins, one of our finest actors, has an incredible range as a performer, it is in this film’s final 10 minutes where he gives everything he is capable of and leaves us shattered.
As “The Father,” it is perhaps his best work in a storied career, including an Academy Award for the creepiest villain of all-time in “The Silence of the Lambs” and last year’s Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in an astute portrait of former Pope Benedict in “The Two Popes.”
This is a film that will linger for a long time.
“The Father” is a 2020 drama directed by playwright Florian Zeller. It stars Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, Mark Gatiss and Imogene Poots. Rated: PG-13 for some strong language, and thematic material, its runtime is 1 hour, 37 minutes. It is in theaters on March 12.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.