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A Monumental Triumph
The Father has solidified itself as one of the strongest contenders in Awards Season thus far. It has seen many nominations across the board in the many major awards ceremonies over the past few months. Many have praised Anthony Hopkins' performance, and rightfully so. He's just as good as they're saying, and even better. Olivia Colman also delivers a strong, nuanced, emotional performance as well, not to be overshadowed by Hopkins' towering portrayal of an elderly father battling Alzheimer's. The film is based on a play of the same name, also written and directed by Florian Zeller. It's a contained psychological drama which largely takes place in one location, seemingly Anthony's flat. Even with only one locale and few principal characters, the writing, acting, and editing are all so compelling that you hardly feel like you just sat down to watch a movie. The slightly over 90 minute runtime absolutely flies by and the powerful, emotionally charged finale will leave you reeling long after the credits roll.
It will come as no surprise when I say that the performances at the heart of the film are the strong aspect by far. Anthony Hopkins gives what I believe would be an Oscar-winning performance any other year except this year: the year of Chadwick Boseman. It is clear that Hopkins either did extensive research on how Alzheimer's patients behave because he absolutely nailed this. His performance is easily his best since his Oscar-winning performance as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs back in 1991. Hopkins would undoubtedly be number two to Chadwick's swan song in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom this year, this is no sleight to the other candidates. Hopkins is simply on another level here. This is not to take away from the subtle performance by Olivia Colman, who has to deal with and face the issues with her ailing father. Colman also joins a crowded field in the Supporting Actress category this year with her heartfelt performance as the daughter trying to help her struggling father in any way she can, all the while dealing with marital and professional issues. The supporting cast also does a fine job being the glue which holds this emotional story together. But, we follow Hopkins and experience his confusion with him as he attempts to sort out days which seem to blend together and keep straight all the characters who either try to help or antagonize him. Hopkins is simply a force here and Colman goes toe to toe right with him. It's a treat to see on-screen and must be experienced to be believed.
Are you surprised that I put Editing in here over the Screenplay? Well, I won't say you should be, but you won't when you see the film. The achievement in editing here is some next-level shit as far as filmmaking aspects which aid in the storytelling goes. The editing is not overly flashy or exists simply to try to obtain an Oscar. The editing on display here complements and heightens the storytelling as it adds to the confusion and shifting timelines. The story seems to outline multiple days over the course of 5-10 years in the lives of Anthony and Ann, played by Hopkins and Colman respectively. There are hard cuts/edits to show that Anthony is struggling to keep characters straight and the days in order. It's also done to show how Alzheimer's might impact one's ability to think, remember, and forget. It's increasingly evident and important as the story goes along. We also need to pay attention to furniture, clothing, and items within the flat, as they indicate what day it is and what stage in life we are dealing within a given scene. Each and every editing choice is intentional and calculated. The brilliant editing here is not only a masterclass on how to use editing to improve or complement a story, but also to show that edits can have intentionality rather than exist for mere window dressing. I have described The Father's editing as reverse-Bohemian Rhapsody to highlight this point. Watch out for The Father to make waves at the Oscars this year, specifically in the Editing category.
I, of course, wanted to make it a point to praise the screenplay in this film. Just because I listed it third behind the acting and editing, doesn't mean it wasn't strong. The screenplay of this film is brilliant, which must mean that the source material, the stage play, must have been dynamite. Florian Zeller, who wrote and directed the film, also wrote the original play as well. He adapted it himself along with a writing partner, Christopher Hampton. What they have achieved here is magnificient: they have crafted a screenplay which is told from the perspective of a father whose mind is slowly deteriorating and it presumably perfectly captures what it must be like to be suffering from Alzheimer's. As stated earlier, Hopkins effectively captures what this must be like in his portrayal of the titular character, but this also means that it must have been expertly outlined in the screenplay as well. It isn't just the great dialogue writing or the character work within, it is also the brilliant structure of the screenplay which shows the progression of the mind and the different symptoms and feelings one has when dealing with this particular ailment. The screenplay features a broken narrative also found in films like Memento and Pulp Fiction, which made the narrative style more popular/famous. Now, Memento had a similar purpose for using this narrative structure; if you've seen the film, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. This narrative structure is employed here for a similar effect: to show the memory loss he is experiencing - and we share in his confusion. I have seen the film twice now and it's abundantly clear to me that certain characters are confused, locations are mixed up, days are blended together, and plot points are intertwined for this very purpose. The structure isn't trying to be cool (although it is), the purpose behind it is to elevate the storytelling and heighten the stakes. It plays like a psychological thriller, but it isn't trying to thrill - the story is simply enthralling, engaging, and wholly engrossing.
The Father is simply a film that just works on every level. The performances are top notch and Oscar-worthy, especially Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. The film's editing is next-level and works to either leave you in awe or confused - probably both. The screenplay of the film likely comes from remarkable source material and therefore translates incredibly well to the screen. The structure of the film is so brilliantly put together and adds to the overall impact of the story. All of these filmmaking aspects work in perfect harmony to give a unique cinematic experience never before seen for this type of film dealing with this particular subject matter. The film builds and it builds until finally we come full circle and we are left teary eyed and shook after its emotional fever pitch by the end. As far as Oscar films, or just Awards Season films go, this is easily one of the leaders of the pack and must be sought out if you can.
Painfully Average/run of the mill
How did this get made
The Father is a Sony Pictures Classics film and it is currently enjoying a theatrical release where movie theaters are safely open. It is unclear whether or not it has a streaming release currently.