Adapted by Florian Zeller from his stage play of the same name, The Father is a film about the ravages of time in the vein of Michael Haneke’s Amour. But while Haneke presented his subjects with clinical detachment, like insects pinned to a corkboard, Zeller forces us into the mind of Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), a man who is unaware that he is losing it. The result is one of the most terrifying films of recent years.

It’s clear that this is Zeller’s first feature: some shots feel like a National Theatre Live production, and a few images – including a statue of a giant, fragmented human head – feel more than a little on the nose. Still, Zeller does do some interesting things with the new medium. Yorgos Lamprinos’ skilful editing and a subtly changing set make each scene change more discombobulating than the last, while Ludovico Einaudi’s droning music creates an underlying sense of dread. By the time we reach the heart-breaking final scene, we are as broken as Anthony himself. 

Hopkins is magnificent in the title role. As Matt Zoller Seitz once argued, the Academy tends to mistake ‘Most Acting’ for ‘Best Acting’, but this time they were right on the money. In just over 90 minutes Hopkins spins on multiple dimes, turning from twinkly-eyed tap-dancer to venom-spitting crank to blubbering child, yet each new turn feels completely genuine. However, let it not be said that this is a one-man show. Olivia Colman masterfully balances love, exasperation and fear as Anthony’s daughter, while Rufus Sewell and Mark Gatiss bring different flavours of sleaze to their nebulous roles in the story.

The Father is a triumph, both as an exploration of living with dementia (and living with dementia sufferers) and as a showcase for the monumental talent of one of our greatest living actors.



CAST: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell

DIRECTOR: Florian Zeller

WRITERS: Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller

SYNOPSIS: A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.