The Father (2020)
Dir: Florian Zeller
Who is the father?
Anthony, played by screen legend Anthony Hopkins, is elderly gentleman. Based on the play by director Florian Zeller, this has already been turned into a French film in 2015, but here we have the playwright’s own adaptation of his work, and he makes full use of the benefits of film and editing to tell the story in a way that draws us into the life of this man.
Where is Anthony?
Honestly, it’s hard to be sure, he’s in his flat, or his daughters flat, or both, neither, somewhere, nowhere. The film is cleverly made to be disorienting, with the layout of locations being deliberately similar, though there are things you eventually start to pick up on that can help as keys, which may make repeat viewing easier to follow, though I can’t face the idea of watching it again right now.
When does this take place?
That’s hard to say too, it’s not a simple linear timeline, events are muddled. Some moments seem to come before things they should come after, many things repeat but with slight differences each time, and so the events depicted could be spread out over many years, or not very long at all.
Why is it all so confusing?
It’s a depiction of the horrific effects of dementia, being unsure who people are, where they are, what’s going on, or when things are happening. Essentially, the film gives us a taste of how Anthony must be feeling. I found myself getting confused for the first half of the film, I hung on everything that was being said and often found it was in what wasn’t being said that helped me think I had a grip on it, latching onto anything that made some sense. Then as the pieces started to come together, it drew me in and had me gripped with strong emotions.
How will it make you feel?
Devastated, utterly devastated. I had a general idea of what this was about before watching it but it still hit me hard. Once I had some idea of how things fit together, the film had me tense, upset, frustrated, angry. Especially if you have personal experience of loved ones with dementia, this could be incredibly upsetting and is maybe best avoided. It’s so powerfully written and edited, with gripping performances, it has the full impact intended and I was left unable to shake it.
What Oscars is it nominated for at the Academy Awards?
Firstly it’s up for Best Picture, which is a tough race to be in but (though it’s only the first of the Best Picture nominees I’ve seen so far) I’m glad it is. Then there’s the acting, there are good performances all around but both Anthony Hopkins lead role and Olivia Colman’s supporting role are nominated, and very understandably so. Then there are nods for the excellent screenplay, and the editing and production design, both of which are instrumental to making the story work so well. It’s too early for me to make a foolhardy guess as to the film’s chances of winning, but I will say that it’s a worthy contender in all the fields and though I wouldn’t easily recommend the film, that’s not because it’s not a brilliant piece of work, it absolutely is, albeit a devastating one.