Anthony Hopkins was awarded the Best Actor Oscar for his heart-wrenching portrayal of a man suffering with dementia in this disorienting film from French writer/playwright/director Florian Zeller. Based on Zeller’s celebrated stage show of the same title, the director wanted to cast Hopkins so badly for the film, that when adapting from play to screenplay, he changed the main character’s name from André to Anthony. Luckily for him, and for audiences, his efforts paid off, and Hopkins delivers nothing less than a late-career tour-de-force.
Anthony the character is 80 years old, stubborn, and is losing his grip on reality. His caring daughter Anne (the excellent Olivia Colman) is moving to France, and wants her father to move into a care home, while Anthony can’t bear moving from his flat, and pushes away any professional carers he encounters. With this somewhat familiar set-up, where Zeller’s film shines is ensuring that we the audience are seeing the world from Anthony’s eyes every step of the way. When Anthony experiences a sudden, horrifying jolt of confusion as his apartment appears to be instantly completely refurbished, we feel it too.
Is there another actor whose stratospheric rise British audiences have been so thrilled to watch than Olivia Colman? Her performance here is superb as always, but this is Hopkins’ film through and through. Even as Anthony rages against his condition, Hopkins never loses sight of the humanity at the core of his character. At turns feisty, combative, charming and desolate, Anthony is a character who many of us will recognize, and Hopkins’ powerful, poignant portrayal has already been declared by some critics to be the best onscreen performance of his already glittering career. Watching him at work in The Father, it’s difficult to disagree.