“The Father” drops your heart and lets it shatter into a myriad of pieces. As the credits begin to roll, each fragment begins to come to rest, far away from the others. The film ends with you in that state, heartbroken, reeling. You are left to attempt to gather all the shards and put them back together, but it is not easy. Writer-director Florian Zeller has created an ineffably powerful experience.
Adapted from the critically acclaimed play of the same name in French, "Le Père," written by Zeller himself, the film harnesses the power of cinema to redefine sympathy. The film immerses the audience in Anthony Hopkins’ character’s mind, thoughts and confusion. It’s overwhelming and scary and exhausting, offering no respite.
Anthony Hopkins shows why he is one of the best in the world. He delivers a consummate tour de force that is utterly breathtaking; it is an exemplification of acting at its very finest. His performance is what makes the film as wrenching as it is. Olivia Colman gives a heartfelt performance as well that is creditable in its own right, but Hopkins definitely steals the show.
Zeller has harmonized the different cinematic elements remarkably to effectively dictate the audience’s thoughts and emotions to match Hopkins’ character’s, a man named Anthony also, in a manner that transcends the vicariousness that we are typically accustomed to with films. The cinematography and production design are delicate, serving as the lens through which to view the happenings from Anthony’s point of view. It is not often that the production design holds its own in a film that is not a period piece, but here, it plays a crucial part in shaping the murky perception of various places. The score acts almost like a round knob button that modulates the audience’s anxiety as its pace quickens and eases. The editing carefully connects everything together finally to create a world that is trapped in the confines of a man’s mind.
What truly makes “The Father” extraordinary is the command that it has over the audience’s mind and its thoughts. You feel Anthony’s bewilderment in a way that is so overpowering that it crushes you. And it is terrifying, so terrifying, to think that anybody’s own mind could inflict such pain on themselves and their loved ones. Zeller has crafted an experience that comes as close as you could possibly get to going through such an ordeal without actually going through it. It is this experience that simulates the gradual loss of your grasp on a reality that you have known and taken for granted all your life, the abscission of your memories as the strong wind of dementia gusts through your mind’s branches, that makes the film have a profound impact that lasts long after it ends. It is unforgettable.