Life & Culture

Film review: The Father

Prepare to cry your eyes out at this devastating portrayal of dementia, says Linda Marric


Anthony Hopkins won his second Best Actor Oscar - his first was for The Silence of The Lambs in 1992 - for his role as a man gradually succumbing to dementia in Florian Zeller’s heartbreaking debut The Father. Adapted from Zeller’s own award-winning French language play Le pére, the film also stars Olivia Coleman, Rufus Sewell and Mark Gatiss.

Hopkins is Anthony, a man in his eighties struggling to come to terms with life after he is informed by his daughter Anne (Coleman) that she has met someone and is planning to move to Paris. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, Anthony starts to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even reality. This soon leads to some rather confusing and churlish exchanges with people around him.

Zeller’s film plays with its audience's own perception of what is real and imagined. it tells the story, rather cleverly, from the perspective of the mind of a man unable to discern between reality and delusion. The Father could well be the first film to truly convey what it must feel like to be falling into the grips of dementia and is as heartbreaking as it is brilliantly innovative in a narrative sense.

What makes the film even more compelling, is its ability to trust its audience to put all the pieces of this brilliantly written puzzle together. Zeller has given us a dense and brilliantly complex story in which things that we thought to be real often turn out to be delusions and vice versa.

Hopkins gives the performance of his life here, proving once again that he truly in a class of his own. For her part, Coleman gives a layered and deeply moving turn as the bewildered and often frustrated daughter of a man who sometimes forgets who she is. There are also some dazzling performances from Sewell and Gatiss, while Imogen Poots (Vivarium) impresses as Anthony’s would be carer Laura.

Zeller has given us a compelling and truly devastating film about what it feels like to lose someone to their own mind. Prepare to cry your eyes out at its gut-wrenching denouement, even if by the end you’ll know exactly where it’s leading. Absolutely terrifying, in the literal sense. 

In cinemas from Monday

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