The Father, the film adaptation of writer/director Florian Zeller’s stage play Le Père, isn’t just one of 2021’s most exceptional films, it’s one of the most memorable and affecting dramas about the toll of ageing and memory loss ever made.
Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning performance is outstanding but it’s far from the only reason to see The Father on the big screen. Here’s everything you need to know.
The Father release date: 11 June 2021
When Florian Zeller was 15, his grandmother, who’d practically raised him – “she was like my mother” – began to suffer from the savage memory slips and confusion of dementia. In time, Zeller’s experiences with his grandmother and the cruel disease’s long goodbye would coalesce into the French playwright’s multi-award-winning play, Le Père (2012) – the story of an ageing man and his daughter, navigating the bewildering and shifting terrain of forgetfulness.
Co-written with English playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton (who translated the original play into English), The Father is a near-flawless big-screen adaptation. Built around remarkably authentic performances from Anthony Hopkins (Westworld, The Silence of the Lambs) as Anthony and Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown) as Anne, Zeller employs masterful filmmaking that brilliantly, disorientingly places us in Anthony’s world – a place where people and rooms seemingly change at random, and what is familiar and reassuring is under constant threat.
The Father isn’t always an easy watch but it’s an extraordinarily accomplished and satisfying film. And it’s absolutely no surprise that it won Oscars and BAFTAs for Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton).
Anthony is a former engineer, a proud and self-reliant man in his 80s who loves his flat. Only, recently, things have started to unravel.
Objects go missing, his daughter Anne and her boyfriend Paul are meddling and insisting that he have a caretaker to look after him, and worst of all, the flat itself appears to change its appearance and strange people come and go.
Experienced through Anthony’s eyes and mind, The Father reveals the cruel and bewildering tricks dementia plays on his mind and on those who love him, care for him and slip through his weakening grip on reality.
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, Thor: Ragnarok) is Anthony
There’s not an ounce of the movie star in Anthony Hopkins’ heart-wrenching performance in The Father. By turns proud, belligerent, joyful and fearfully child-like, Anthony is a man buffeted by a world that makes less sense to him by the day.
Olivia Colman (The Favourite, Hot Fuzz) is Anne
Divorced Anne loves her father and desperately wants him to feel settled and safe. But at the same time, she’s found love again and wants to move with her new boyfriend to Paris. Hinting at painful long years spent navigating Anthony’s cognitive decline, Colman’s performance is remarkable – a child grieving the father she loves even as he stands before her.
Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle, A Knight's Tale) is Paul
Paul is Anne’s boyfriend. The pair’s plans, from holidays to the big move to Paris, are forever at the whim of Anthony’s deteriorating state and this is a source of tension between Paul and Anne at times.
Imogen Poots (Vivarium, 28 Weeks Later) is Laura/Lucy
Laura is Anthony’s new caretaker – a young woman hired by Anne to care for him so he can stay living at home. But then, Laura also reminds Anthony of his younger daughter, Lucy. Something happened to Lucy but Anthony can’t remember. He hasn’t seen her for months…
Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense, An Education) is The Woman
Who is The Woman? Sometimes she seems to be Anne, but not always. She’s kind to Anthony and wants what’s best for him but if she’s not Anne then what’s she doing in Anthony’s flat?
Mark Gatiss (Vivarium, 28 Weeks Later) is The Man
The Man is so familiar. He’s in Anthony’s flat sometimes too. He must be Anne’s new boyfriend, Paul, right? But if that’s the case, why does he look different on different days. It’s all so confusing and frustrating.
Beautifully directed by Florian Zeller, with intimate and composed cinematography courtesy of Ben Smithard (Downton Abbey, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), every frame of The Father benefits from the broad canvas a cinema screen offers.
But, more than that, it’s Anthony Hopkins’ career-best performance that you’ll want to experience at the cinema. Every flicker of doubt and frustration. Every nervous self-comforting hand gesture, and momentary hesitation at a sudden change in his surroundings.
See Anthony Hopkins' magnificently authentic performance where it belongs - on the big screen.
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