The Father

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There’s no debate. Anthony Hopkins is one of the finest actors who ever lived. Back when he received his Academy Award (and first nomination) as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 film Silence of the Lambs, he had already been acting in movies, TV, and the stage for over 25 years. His career actually began back in the 1960s when he became Laurence Olivier’s understudy at the Royal National Theatre in London. Hopkins’ stage work earned him critical acclaim. Even then, he was compared to both Olivier and Richard Burton. Hopkins got his cinematic break playing Richard the Lionheart, in The Lion in Winter in1968. It was only his second feature but he received a BAFTA nomination and widespread praise for his work. Over the next 50 years, he has since given many great performances, even in lesser productions that didn’t match his greatness. There are so many highlights for me: Magic, The Elephant Man, The Bounty, The Silence of the Lambs, Howards End, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Shadowlands, The Remains of the Day, Nixon, Amistad, The Two Popes. Now add The Father to that list.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know it has been a while since I awarded anything higher than 3 1/2 stars. I’ve seen several movies I’d recommend this year. However, the last movie to get 4 stars was Minari in my January 7 review. There is now another and I am happy to extol its virtues. The Father is a modest drama about an 80-year-old London man who struggles with aging. Hopkins’ character is also named Anthony. He is coping with memory loss. There’s not a lot more to the narrative than that, but that’s preferable in this case. That simplicity allows the actor to present one of the purest displays of acting I’ve seen in some time. The rest of the tiny ensemble includes Rufus Sewell, Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss, and Olivia Williams. Anthony lives with his daughter Anne, a key role played by Olivia Colman. She also stands out.

The Father is a very simple, understated picture that takes place in a flat. Director Florian Zeller adapted his 2012 play Le Pèreco and co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Hampton. This small-scale production merely relies on conversation. Its theatrical roots from the stage are evident. That quiet intimacy is one of the story’s strengths. Much in the same way that Sound of Metal put us into the mind of a protagonist losing his hearing, this likewise makes us understand his confusion when Anthony begins to suffer the onset of dementia. We experience his frustrations. His environment along with the people that come to visit seem to be constantly changing. The chronicle is an unsettling depiction of his reality. I was completely blown away by Hopkins’ achievement. I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s a gifted actor and well known for his thespian skills but honestly, this is among the best. In fact — and I don’t say this lightly — this just might be the greatest performance of his career.


2 Responses to “The Father”

  1. My comments should just mirror your review. I agree with everything. Anthony, wow.. Olivia, wow. Great movie, even better performances. 4 stars


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