Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Florian Zeller
Writer: Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller, based on Florian Zeller’s play “Le pere”
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Willijams, Ayesha Dharker
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 2/12/21
Opens: February 26, 2021 in theaters. March 26, 2021 on PVOD
I’ve sometimes wondered whether I would ever have to go to a nursing home, as I have seen movies about people residing in them that seem either not disabled at all or simply in wheelchairs. The folks in wheelchairs, I figure, might be able to take care of themselves in their own homes. After seeing “The Father” I have more insight into the sort of person, not necessary getting around on wheels, who might need either long-term attention in their own residences or full-time treatment in nursing homes.
Anthony Hopkins performs as a fellow who is not physically disabled but who is brain-addled. In Florian Zeller’s major contribution to the library of films about the disabled—the director’s play “Le pere” has been adapted cinematically—Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), in real life 83 years old, can walk around his flat, even take walks in the park outside, though he remains indoors in this film. Anthony is in denial about his condition as are so many people thoroughly confused by the perverse workings in their brains. His daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) is able to care for him, but she is moving to Paris to be with her fiancé and will be able to visit only on some weekends. Well, maybe Anthony is not totally in denial because when Anne announces her plans to leave, he remarks with trepidation “What is going to become of me?”
Anthony is sure of one thing. He owns his own flat, except when he does not, because Anne’s boyfriend-fiancé (Mark Gatiss) known as simply “the man” appears there, suggesting that this is his place and that Anthony is merely a guest. But wait! Anne’s supposed husband Paul (Rufus Sewell) acts like Anne’s husband, suggesting that Anne move her father to a nursing home. He overhears. The movie turns into a form of sci-fi when the furniture and walls of his abode change, something that could be done in a Broadway theater easily with a rotating stage but looks more natural cinematically.
Can you image being like Anthony? You still have your physical health; you can walk around, go outside to the park, converse seeming lucid part of the time. But it’s like you’re in a dream, not quite a nightmare, but causing you to be vertiginous so much of the time. The movie audience will be baffled and pleasantly surprised and will try to guess the truth. Is Anne really moving to Paris? Is this Anthony’s place or is he a guest? Why does the furniture change? What happened to the painting on the wall? And why is he always misplacing my watch?
The film is a big tease and happily so. Anthony Hopkins is so good he makes us scared: that one way, in the not so distant future, this could be any of us, as confused in real life as we are unhinged in our theater seats during the film. Credit also to Olivia Colman who, like Hopkins, may be nominated for best performer during the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony and by a host of other award groups. A stunning experience.
98 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – A
Technical – A-
Overall – A-