Fresh from its success at the 93rd Academy Awards, Florian Zeller’s The Father has finally arrived in UK cinemas. Zeller’s award-winning drama is an adaptation of his own 2012 play Le Père and serves as his directorial debut. The film follows Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an elderly man with dementia living alone in his flat. His daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) is attempting to find an appropriate carer for Anthony but his regular outbursts and the progression of his condition are making this an increasingly more difficult task.
The Father: From Stage to Screen
The Father’s victories at this year’s Oscars are very indicative of the film’s best qualities. It was nominated for six awards, eventually taking home two of these. They were for Zeller and writing partner Christopher Hampton’s adapted screenplay and for Hopkins in the Best Actor category.
Zeller and Hampton have crafted an incredibly well contained, pressure cooker style drama which sees Anthony’s condition worsen over the course of the running time. They capture the difficulties in caring for someone with dementia and the challenging decisions that have to be made when considering all of the options available. Furthermore, the way in which they use Anthony’s flat almost exclusively as the single location for the film is excellent. The film’s set and production design help to tell the story at almost every turn, exacerbating the inescapable nature of the illness that Anthony is sadly suffering from. The clever way they utilise this space alongside the screenplay allows the film as a whole to tell Anthony’s story with greater impact, of course, enhanced even further by Hopkins’ stunning performance.
Father and Daughter
Having previously won the Best Actor Oscar for his famous performance as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, his win this time around couldn’t have been for a more different character. His portrayal of Anthony is truly superb and a testament to his ability that he can still deliver such a powerful performance so late in his career. He’s able to convey Anthony’s strong-willed and stubborn nature one minute and then showcase his vulnerability and feebleness in the next. Through this versatile performance, he carefully displays how dementia affects those that suffer from it. His increased confusion, paranoia and sadness are conveyed with such conviction. In addition to this, he transitions between the states of being affected and then unaffected by this illness with ease, creating a truly authentic portrayal and also leaving room to show the joy and happiness that can still be experienced by those with dementia, despite all of the difficulties that it brings.
However, it’s not only the performance of Hopkins that ensures that this drama is wholly effective. His supporting cast, most notably Colman, who plays his on-screen daughter, help to contribute to the often very troubling atmosphere that can accompany families who encounter this illness by way of a loved one being diagnosed. Colman was also recognised by the Academy with a nomination for her work in the film, and rightfully so as her time acting alongside Hopkins is often heartbreaking, impressively highlighting the emotional turmoil that comes as a result of caring for someone with such a disease. Their chemistry is convincing in every moment and will prove relatable to viewers who have experienced similar situations themselves and evoke sympathy from those who haven’t.
A Debut to Remember
So in no less than his feature-length debut Zeller has demonstrated remarkable talent in adapting his stage play for the screen to then successfully direct it in a way that allows the narrative to work as a film. His phenomenal cast, of course, Hopkins and Colman in particular excel in their roles bringing the precise screenplay to life with devastating effect. Furthermore, the intricate set and production design only show further attention to detail and an awareness of how space can be used to improve the quality of storytelling.
Taking such a sensitive subject and delivering a truly all-encompassing view of it is no small task but Zeller’s work here makes it feel just like that, coupled with Hopkins’ truly towering performance The Father is a memorable milestone for both creatives at very different stages in their respective film careers which will no doubt prove timeless for years to come.
Have you wathed The Father yet?
If so, what did you make of the film?
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