The Father – Film Review
Director: Florian Zeller
Writers: Christopher Hampton (screenplay by), Florian Zeller (play)
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss
This is the debut film by French writer/ director Florian Zeller. It is based on his play of the same name (Le Père – The Father) which was first performed in 2014. and went on to win the Molière Award for Best Play. It was translated into English and even had a run at the Gate Theatre, Dublin in 2016 with Owen Roe playing the titular part. For those that saw the play, now is your chance to compare Owen with Anthony Hopkins in the same role!
It’s impressive for a first time director to be able to put together a cast including Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. It shows how much hype must have come with this script and director. In a nice touch, while working on the screenplay, Zeller called the main character Anthony as his dream was to cast Hopkins in the role.
The film starts with Anthony (Hopkins) sitting in his living room listening to classical music. It is an affluent, suburban apartment somewhere in London and it portrays an easy retirement after a lifetime of success. His daughter Anne (Colman) arrives at his door in a state of confusion. She talks to her Dad as if he was a child, which causes him some annoyance. Through subsequent scenes, there is a sense of unease as details start to change around Anthony as if he is the only fixed point in a constantly changing world. All these things frustrate Anthony, while the viewer starts to realise that we are seeing the world through the eyes of a man slowly losing his faculties.
The film delves into the topic of dementia but deals with it in an unusual manner, telling it from the perspective of the individual suffering from the illness. Hopkins is impressive in the part, at times he is flirtatious and vibrant with his helpers, at other moments he’s like a scared animal, unable to make sense of anything around him.
For all the merits and inventiveness of the script, at times, the film feels a little too close to its source material, and it never really escapes the confines of the living room in which it was mainly filmed. The cast are hugely impressive though and it is a rare treat to see actors as impressive as Hopkins and Colman in the one film.