Is That the One Anthony Hopkins Refused to Accept?

He didn’t expect to win, okay? That made the video an instant hit. In Florian Zeller’s film adaptation of his own play, Hopkins plays sophisticated Anthony, who has dementia and struggles to maintain his life in a lover’s London apartment. The way the film is messed up is a genius move. We simply enter a dissolving mind. The story is disjointed, with stage repetitions and characters who look different than before. As it must be to see the world as insane.

The brilliant construction allows ‘The Father’ to be more sober than melodramatic. It’s frightening, touching, and sad all at the same time. Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) goes about his day in his spectacular London apartment, displaying clear signs of mental illness. He loses his watch and goes on a rant about a thieving caregiver. His daughter Anne, played by Olivia Colman, appears exhausted and tries to pacify him. It’s as if they’ve had this talk before.

For a first-time director, Zellner achieves an emotional depth that even three-decade veterans of the game struggle to achieve. With Hopkins’ incredible performance, Zellner creates claustrophobia and disorientation with simple staging and a brilliantly Hitchcockian creative spin. I was stunned the first time the film switched actors, confusing Anthony and the audience. He is stunned into silence as he watches a woman who claims to be his daughter but is not. This not only conveys Anthony’s illness, but also creates an invisible bond between him and the viewer. How can you not care for him now that you know how he feels?

And here comes Hopkins’ performance. The decision by Zellner and co-writer Christopher Hampton to rename the central character after him adds to the story’s dramatic irony (he was named Andre in the play on which The Father is based). How Hopkins captures Anthony’s frustration at misremembering small and large details, as well as his fear and helplessness, is beyond words.

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