Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Father

Anne (Olivia Colman) rushes home to visit her father Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), who now lives alone after an altercation with his caregiver. He rants about random stuff such as accusing his former nurse of stealing his watch, only to remember having hidden the same watch in his cupboard a few moments later. She explains her plans of moving to Paris after meeting a guy and floats the idea of his father residing in a nursing home, to which he vehemently disagrees. After Anne leaves for the day, Anthony finds a strange man sitting on his couch, who claims to be Paul (Mark Gatiss), Anne’s husband. The two have a heated exchange prompting the husband to call his wife on the phone. As the doorbell rings, Anne (Olivia Williams) comes in with roasted chicken in hand for dinner, but Anthony does not recognize her at all. Soon, Anne invites a new caregiver over, Laura (Imogen Poots), who Anthony thinks resembles his other daughter Lucy, who no longer comes over to visit. Later that night, Anthony finds another Paul (Rufus Sewell) in his flat, prompting him to think that something fishy is going on.

The trailer did pique my curiosity. A lot. What the hell is this narrative all about? Which Anne is Anthony’s daughter? Which Paul is his son-in-law? Does he even have a son-in-law to begin with? Will Colman break the fourth wall and wink at us revealing that they are actually con artists taking advantage of the old man and trying to scam him of his home? Do all these characters even exist or are they mere figments of Anthony’s loosening grasp of reality? All these speculations make the viewing experience unique because you are not quite sure if the story is being told from the POV of an unreliable narrator.

The Father is another case of a movie that could be an awesome theatrical piece. The minimal set and different actors playing the same roles work well with onstage magic. What sets this film apart, though, is that despite the lengthy dialogues, it doesn’t fall into the trap of feeling like a play trying hard to be a movie. If anything, the director does an amazing job in letting the screenplay reflect the very mind of a person suffering from dementia. In the end, you are just as confused as Anthony is, making the whole experience seem as if you were being given a glimpse of his mental deterioration through his very own eyes.

There is one scene in the dining room where Anne and Paul argue about Anthony and he walks in on them doing so. That scene is expounded further until Anthony steps out to go to the kitchen while the couple continue arguing until you realize that their dialogue is the exact same one at the beginning of that sequence, the plot effectively getting caught in its own loop. Mind. Blown.

As for the acting, had Hopkins not won an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs, this is probably the best next bet to get him that golden statuette. Fresh from his supporting nomination from last year’s The Two Popes, his chances of winning another Academy Award is rather slim given Chadwick Boseman’s posthumous advantage, despite Hopkins’ portrayal of an old man grappling with dementia so emotionally devastating it should’ve easily won him acting accolades left and right. It’s a good thing he was not overlooked at the BAFTAs this year.

Unfortunately, Colman did not have the same luck with the BAFTA’s, which is baffling to be honest. Not even getting nominated in her home turf doesn’t make sense given her nuanced acting here. I’ve never seen an episode of The Crown, so the only other work I can compare this performance to is her royal turn as Queen Anne in The Favorite, which was a total riot. After seeing that movie I sort of dismissed her as more of a comedic actress. Seeing her hold her own against Hopkins in The Father, I am now convinced of her versatility. Far from campy Anne in The Favorite, her Anne in this film shines through her silent misery and restraint that just emanate from her eyes.

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