The Father review — Hopkins and Colman powerful in dementia drama

Directed by Florian Zeller | Written by Zeller and Christopher Hampton, based on a play by Zeller | 97 min | On Demand

We’re all too familiar with pandemics in 2021, far too familiar. This particular ongoing pandemic has underlined the frankly abysmal way we treat senior citizens in this country, our elders who are frequently warehoused four-a-room in care homes across the country when they can no longer take care of themselves. That in itself is a pandemic of neglect and abuse. If these elders are among the fortunate few they may get their own room and decent care. If they’re among the fortunate few they might still have their cognitive faculties. But, can you imagine the confusion, the fear, if these folks are suffering from dementia? If they can’t remember the people in their life who love them?

The Father depicts a scenario like this, one that I’m sure will be familiar to many.

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is in his apartment when his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman), visits. But, is it his apartment or does it belong to Anne? Is he staying at Anne’s apartment? Is she married or divorced?

It’s clear he’s a charmer, willful, intelligent, but increasingly confused. What really impresses here is how the film — adapted from a play but not especially stage-bound — provides Anthony’s perspective, his senility, and his losing track of time — both figuratively and literally, as he keeps misplacing his watch.

I won’t say more, because I think the film is likely more compelling the less you know about its structural details, but I can say the writing, editing, and four stellar British thesps have a lot to do with how good it is: Mark Gattis, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, and Olivia Williams.

Above them are the co-leads, Oscar-winners and once again Oscar-nominated Colman and Hopkins. Hopkins is monstrously compelling, you never doubt him for a second. And Colman reminds us of her particular gift, which is showing on her face every little bit of what she’s feeling. She’s a heartbreaker, what she can do.

In the growing sub-genre of dementia dramas, The Father joins Still Alice, Away From Her, and the recent Supernova as the best of the bunch, with a sidelong nod to the apartment-bound, end-of-life love story from a few years ago, the crushing but beautiful, Amour.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.