The surprise winner of this year’s Best Actor Oscar, the role of Anthony Hopkins in The father of an elderly person with dementia is a provocative and unsentimental interrogation of a terrible disease. Closer to psychological horror than outright drama, it’s also eerily reminiscent of the role for which Hopkins won his first Oscar: Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. In this modern classic, he played a charming man imprisoned by a mad mastermind; in The Father, he plays a charming man imprisoned by a deteriorating brain.
Based on director Florian Zeller’s award-winning play of the same name, the film gives us insights from Hopkins’ courteous protagonist, Anthony. But like the stains that make his classical music CDs skip and repeat, skip and repeat, his decaying mind is stuck on an imperceptible groove, cruelly forcing him to relive the same few moments over and over again until his confusion becomes hers. form of trauma.
Telling the story from Anthony’s subjective and highly unreliable perspective, Zeller sets the film primarily in a well-appointed London apartment, sowing doubts early on as to whether said flat belongs to Anthony or his ailing daughter. for a long time, Anne (Olivia Colman) . At times, the cupboards in the kitchen change and perhaps the layout as well. Even more disturbing, the inhabitants of the apartment too. At one point, for example, Anne is suddenly played by Olivia Williams and although the character is sometimes single, at other times she has a husband, who in turn is sometimes played by Mark Gatiss and sometimes by Rufus Sewell. .
All of this gives The Father a sort of disorienting power that works pretty well, though the narrative trick Zeller is trying to pull off might seem a little trite or obvious to anyone who’s watched a lot of genre cinema (the big reveal has become a staple of horror films and science fiction films). Nonetheless, in this context, the film’s subjectivity helps set it apart from other recent dementia-themed films such as Still Alice and Away From Her, both of which examined the disease through the lens of family members. left to care for the affected person.
That’s not to say we don’t understand Anne’s point of view as well. There’s a chilling moment of temporary desperation that shows the toll caring for an aging parent can have, and throughout the film Colman’s face remains a remarkable study in stoicism and heartache. silent love, the latter evoking something each time. reminds Anthony of Anne’s deceased sister, who is now alive and well in his bewildered mind.
The real benefit of mediating our experience of the film largely through Hopkins’ performance, however, is that we get a more robust and empathetic view of what it means for a man to face his own mortality after being deprived of the emotional resilience that his 80-plus years on the planet should have given him. Every time he behaves like a toddler in the early parts of the movie, he really sets the stage for a devastating payoff in the final ten minutes, one that showcases Hopkins at his rawest and most vulnerable and leaves you with little of doubt as to why he won this Oscar.
The mild-mannered family man pushed to his limits by a violent act has been a B-movie cliche ever since Charles Bronson played an architect-turned-vigilante in the Death Wish movies, but he received a lucrative edit more recently when Taken a subverted public expectations. on the type of actor who could convincingly carry this kind of film. Turning Liam Neeson into a middle-aged ass kicker just when he seemed destined for a successful career playing aging mentors was an inspired decision, one that Anybody happily reproduced with Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad star Bob Odenkirk.
Last seen on the big screen playing the role of paterfamilias for the March sisters in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women, Odenkirk – who spent his early career in comedy – goes rogue in a self-indulgent film to turn his father into a deadly weapon. He plays Hutch Mansell, a man with a secret past who seems to have purposely emasculated himself to pursue some sort of suburban romance. Jumping into his daily routine – his morning jog around the neighborhood, his wife pestering him to take out the trash, his boring job filling out spreadsheets for his factory owner stepfather – the film quickly sketches how its existence has become.
But when his willful inaction during a home invasion costs him his son’s respect, he no longer feels able to repress his former existence as a black-ops government agent and so embarks on a mission in style. John Wick to wreak havoc on anyone who crosses paths with him. Despite being only two years older than Keanu Reeves, Odenkirk is of course nobody’s idea of John Wick – except, perhaps, John Wick screenwriter Derek Kolstad, who also wrote Nobody. and gives Odenkirk enough room to slyly acknowledge the regressive nature of this movie. plot while simultaneously seizing the opportunity to have fun killing a group of Russian gangsters.
Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) directs with brutal efficiency rather than ballet beauty, but Odenkirk injects enough charisma to make it easier to ground Hutch as he navigates his murderous midlife crisis.
The Father is on general release from June 11; No one is on general release from June 9
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