Sometimes we save the best for last, but in most cases, a person’s best comes when we least expect. Such is the case with Florian Zeller’s adaptation of The Father. Without question, Zeller’s film is one of the ten best movies this year. What’s mind-blowing is how it’s on the strength of a performance from Sir Anthony Hopkins, which far surpasses his Oscar-winning performance in Silence of the Lambs as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Is it possible for an actor with sixty years in the business to be a revelation? In this case, it is. After a career of playing some of the more cold twisted people ever to grace the screen, Hopkins is the most vulnerable he’s ever been on screen. For ninety glorious minutes, seeing this iconic actor reach depths few have ever seen was enough to bring tears to my eyes and leave me breathless.
Hopkins plays Anthony, a man who is almost 80, and his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) has come to take care of him while encouraging him not to fire this latest healthcare worker. Where the film’s from seemingly a conventional narrative is when other actors start being introduced as being his daughter or other members of his life. This twist creates a slight distortion of reality or perhaps what it might be for some with dementia.
The ensemble in the film is terrific. Watching two Oscar winners go at one another with such care, and at times ferocity was everything that makes cinema fantastic. I can’t imagine a better cast to get the most out of Christopher Hampton’s narrative.
Colman’s strength in the film doesn’t come from what’s said, but how her body language projects the pain and torment of watching her father slowly slip from her. Anthony is a very prideful man and is at war with himself. He’s intelligent to know that what’s occurring is abnormal but doesn’t understand how to right what’s wrong. As the film builds, his character slowly builds with fear as his cognitive ability represses. In the end, we see fear overtake Anthony leaving a weeping mess while loudly calling for his mother. It’s such a gut punch to the audience but a career-defining moment for this iconic actor.