The Father starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman

By Moira Sullivan

Anthony Hopkins has been seen in just about every kind of role but now at 82 comes a part for him which has garnished him another well-deserved academy award nomination for best actor this year. Opposite him is Olivia Coleman as his loyal and devoted daughter also with many acting awards, who must ultimately decide on the quality of her life and his. The film is directed and written by French novelist and playwright Florian Zeller. The Father screened at Sundance , Telluride and Toronto last year and will be released on VOD on March 26.

Many of us have experienced caretaking for elderly parents but probably some of the most difficult encounters is when one or both parents begin to lose their memory. The Father succeeds in showing what that looks like on film not as a linear narrative but a fragmented ensemble of merged occurrences just as memory is.

Anthony Hopkins is Anthony who we first encounter living with his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) in his palatial apartment in London. Then ‘The Woman‘ (Olivia Williams) appears that Anthony can’t quite place , and new caretaker who reminds Anthony of his daughter Laura (Imogen Poots). In the apartment is also The Man (Mark Gatiss) and Paul (Rufus Sewell). All of these characters shape shift into an assemblage of past and present personalities that Anthony encounters, and we as spectators.

The Father is brilliant in showing, not telling, what memory impairment looks like and it is a sober and moving portrait. The cinematography by Ben Smithard who worked on Downton Abbey is beautiful and the art direction by Amanda Dazely captivating whose craftmanship was notable in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Hugo and Snow White and the Huntsmen.

The music score has some quite heavy classical pieces such as Act 1 of Norma by Vincenzo Bellini sung by Maria Callas Also an original piano score by Ludovico Einaudi set to the five days that transpire in the film. The original music score is well placed but the heavy classical pieces evoke both longing and desire for more of life than what we are given in an average life span. For Anthony life does seem terribly short even after eight decades. Not only are we reminded of the frailty of the human body but that old age is an illness that we may understand with the shorter life span for animals but not as humans.

Anthony is a well off engineer who wants to remain at home as long as he can. We understand that he is also able to afford the best possible care that can take him for walks not just once but twice a day in an institution. Despite the grandiose life he has lived he and Anne must accept that difficult decisions have to be met in the winter of life.

© 2021 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 03/17/21
Movie Magazine International