REVIEW: Florian Zeller’s masterpiece ‘The Father’ begins with a deceptively simple scene where Anthony, a physically fit old man and his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) are arguing over his constant reluctance to be helped by a carer. Anthony’s denial about his slowly progressing dementia, is eclipsed by the manufactured reality that his mind is making him see. As audience, we’re privy to his chaotic world, where nothing is what it seems like. But Zeller gives it a thrilling twist with an almost horror-like execution that is disturbing, engaging and also thought-provoking, all at the same time.
It takes a special kind of talent to create such an inclusive cinematic experience, depicting the inner world of a mental health patient and those around him. The way Zeller navigates through the moments in Anthony’s life, is just as fractured as his character’s reality and it builds intrigue and empathy, along the way. These elements keep us hooked to the narrative that lays bare the dark truths of a mental health illness. This reality is often never seen or comprehended fully by the patient’s loved ones or sometimes, even the doctors.
And to achieve this feat, Zeller uses two powerhouse performers, both Academy award winners (Hopkins and Colman), who are equally able in their respective parts. Of course, a bulk of heavy-lifting is done by Hopkins, who delivers a rousing performance, worthy of every award coming his way. He is wonderfully resurgent and fantastic in every frame, but a few scenes stand out for their ability to make us relate with the full gamut of his character’s vibrant and often unpredictable persona. Like his onscreen daughter Olivia Colman says, “He has his ways.” Colman also deserves all the praise for her restrained performance, as she lives her father’s deteriorating condition and constantly recalibrates her reality around it. She is further supported by some fine actors like Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss and Rufus Sewell, who give us a profound understanding of the fleeting world of a dementia patient.
Zellman’s ‘The Father’ is a lot more than a film that merely exists to tell you a story. This is an experience and a journey into an unstable world that is just as real, as it is make-believe. Led by some truly outstanding performances, this one’s a celebration of the collective cinematic geniuses that shouldn’t be missed.