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#TIFF20 Review: The Father (Special Presentations)

September 12, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The title character in The Father is Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an elderly man with dementia who is reluctant to leave the London flat where he lives, despite no longer being to take care of himself. When his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) comes over to visit in the opening scene, she informs him that she is moving to Paris, and a new caregiver (Imogen Poots) will be coming to look after him. But Anthony, who got mad at the last caregiver after becoming convinced she stole his misplaced watch, is increasingly confused about where he is and the people around him, leading to bouts of agitation.

The film is written and directed by Florian Zeller, adapting his own 2012 stage play for the screen in his feature directorial debut, and what makes The Father stand out is his entirely unique approach to telling this story. Zeller employs an innovative, fractured narrative to really get us inside the head of his lead character, allowing the audience to experience the confusion right along with Anthony as the story keeps changing in subtle and major ways. It’s a tricky film in this regard, but Zeller pulls off the high concept gambit very well, guided along by masterful acting.

Hopkins delivers a knockout performance, believably portraying a man struggling with dementia in a way that feels painfully accurate. It’s a challenging role that requires an actor of his caliber, and the screen veteran turns in some of his finest work. Whether wandering about his apartment looking for his watch, turning on the charm when he meets the new caregiver, or snapping at those around him when he feels like he isn’t being listened to, it’s a performance that demands him to switch emotions and temperament at a moment’s notice.

The slippery, constantly shifting nature of the story does an excellent job of simulating the experience of being disoriented and unsure of who someone is or where exactly you even are. It’s a fascinating, highly inventive way to tell this story, and it all adds up to a powerful drama that is both mesmerizing and emotionally involving. At the centre of it all is Hopkins, who is gripping to watch, delivering a thrilling and finally heartbreaking performance.

Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Public Screenings:

Monday, September 14th – 9:00 PM at RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place

Tuesday, September 15th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

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