AFI FEST 2020: The Father

Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in The Father. Courtesy of Sony Classics.

Sir Anthony Hopkins delivers yet another top-notch performance as an aging father with dementia in The Father, which is emotionally moving.

When the film premiered during Sundance earlier this year, Hopkins was in the closing weeks of the Oscar race for The Two Popes.  While he may have lost out, he’s back in the running and is almost certainly the front-runner.  It’s not unlike Hopkins to deliver a masterclass performance and here is on display for all to see.  After watching the film, I just wanted to watch it again to see Hopkins and Olivia Colman go at it..  Though to be fair, the AFI FEST stream was having technical difficulties nationwide.

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is at the start of his eighth decade on the planet.  Much to daughter Anne’s (Olivia Colman) dismay, Anthony is living alone.  No matter what jobs she suggests for him, he outright refuses.  The visits are starting to become to much what with Anthony starting to suffer from dementia.  Anyone who has an aging parent knows what Anne must be going through.  It’s a lot to deal with.  At what point will Anthony no longer recognize his daughter or forget his own identity?  To put it simply, Anne is losing her father well before he passes away.  This is something that will certainly resonate with many families.

Every child fears the day when their parents will have to depend on them.  This is something that Anne must learn to cope with and rather quickly.  Judging by her final frames in the film, it isn’t going to come easy at all.  Olivia Colman is two years removed from an Oscar win for Best Actress and like her co-star, she’s certainly a contender once again.

Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller adapt Zeller’s play for the screen.  You’d have never guessed from watching the film.  Hampton and Zeller are able to open it up so as to not make it feel so theatrical.  The cast is so minimal here to the point in which one can certainly see the theatrical roots.  Or quite possibly, the low budget for independent films.

My own paternal grandmother experienced memory loss and her final years were not all the pleasant.  It’s why I’m able to resonate so much with a film of this nature.  Children and grandchildren can only do so much to ease their comfort.  That’s really all we can do.  Even when visiting them in the hospital, there’s no telling if they’ll recognize us let alone that they’re in the nursing home or hospital.  Watching Anthony break down during the final scene of the film, you can’t help but avoid shedding tears.

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman deliver powerhouse performances in The Father.

DIRECTOR:  Florian Zeller
SCREENWRITER: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
CAST:  Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams

The Father screened during the 2020 AFI FEST in the Special Presentations program. Sony Classics will release on December 18, 2020. Grade: 4.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.