Combustible Celluloid
With: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Ayesha Dharker
Written by: Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller, based on a play by Florian Zeller
Directed by: Florian Zeller
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language, and thematic material
Running Time: 97
Date: 02/26/2021

The Father (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Pop Art

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed and co-adapted by Florian Zeller, based on his own play, The Father uses clever editing to tell the story of Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), a man struggling with his fading memory. It's like Memento, but with less forward drive. A scene will be going along, with Anthony speaking with his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman), and then everything will change. Anne tells her father that she's moving to Paris, but then, later, she isn't. She's hired a new caregiver, Laura (Imogen Poots), and around her Anthony shows that he still has a spark. But then a man shows up, who seems to be Anne's husband, but then another man shows up who seems to be Anne's husband (Rufus Sewell), only now this isn't Anthony's flat. Everything keeps switching around, no one seems to be telling the truth, and it's impossible to get a hold on what's real.

Told entirely from the point of view of Anthony, the film uses these abrupt changes to show how frustrating and terrifying memory loss and dementia are. It's a cinematic conceit cleverly used to break away from the stagebound origins, although there's no getting around the fact that everything takes place in the same few rooms. Hopkins gives a huge, showy performance, digging into the character's pain and fear, but not missing the opportunity to give it a little ham. Colman matches him, and the rest of the cast are also excellent. Overall, it's a fine film, though it's difficult to disentangle the emotional truth of the situation from the gimmick. Christopher Hampton (The Quiet American, Atonement, A Dangerous Method) co-wrote the screenplay.

Movies Unlimtied