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The Father

Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5   MUST must see SEE

The Father
dir Florian Zeller
scr Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller
prd Christophe Spadone, Simon Friend, Jean-Louis Livi, David Parfitt, Philippe Carcassonne
with Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams, Ayesha Dharker, Roman Zeller
release US 26.Feb.21,
UK 12.Mar.21
20/UK Film4 1h37

gatiss poots williams
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST



Is it streaming?

colman and hopkins
French playwright Florian Zeller's acclaimed stage drama was previously filmed in 2015 as Floride. This remake is his directing debut, writing the script with Christopher Hampton (who translated the play into English). And the shift to London offers Anthony Hopkins one of the best roles of his career. It's a fiendishly inventive approach to the topic at hand, challenging the audience with clever storytelling and frankly astonishing performances.
Refusing to admit he needs help due to his dementia, Anthony (Hopkins) has alienated yet another carer, leaving his daughter Anne (Colman) at the end of her tether. Especially because she's moving to Paris with her boyfriend. Or perhaps Anthony is living with Anne and her husband Paul (Gatiss) in London. New carer Laura (Poots) may have the fortitude to stick with the job, but as Anthony gets worse, Anne realises that she will need to put him in a care home when she moves away. And he certainly doesn't want that to happen.
Set almost entirely in Anthony's home, the script's stage-bound quality cleverly echoes his disoriented senses. Is it his flat or did he move in with Anne and Paul? And now this woman (Williams) doesn't look like Anne at all. Then Paul (Sewell) isn't the same either. Zeller draws us in, skilfully allowing us to see through Anthony's eyes as the ground seems to shift beneath his feet. This takes the audience on a hugely emotional journey right along with the characters themselves, especially as scenes continually dip into their thoughts.

Hopkins is magical in the role, thoroughly charming until he snaps. His interaction bristles with humour and emotion, shifting in ways that are both quietly subtle and downright earth-shattering. This whiplash behaviour continually catches the other characters off-guard. Colman delivers a delicate, open-handed performance as Anne, pushed and pulled in sometimes painfully difficult directions. Poots and Williams also have strongly sympathetic roles, while Gatiss and Sewell are effectively opaque.

This such a carefully balanced film that the most chilling line is said with a chirpy smile: "Don't worry, everything will sort itself out." Zeller takes an astute, resonant approach to a situation that feels desperate, simply because it can't end happily. And yet the way the film is written and directed continually finds the humanity, especially in the most jarring and heartbreaking moments. It's a beautiful depiction of a difficult situation, somehow managing to offer realism and hope at the same time. And the audience takes this journey right along with the characters.

cert 12 themes, language 30.Dec.20

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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