FlixChatter Review: The Father (2021)

I first heard of The Father (Le Père) when I saw the stage play a few years ago. The play was written by French playwright Florian Zeller and adapted by Christopher Hampton. Zeller teamed up with Hampton once again who wrote the screenplay for the film, and this film became his feature directorial debut. In the play, the Father character is actually called André, but he renamed him Anthony as he wanted Anthony Hopkins specifically for the part. Well, I’m glad Hopkins didn’t turn down the role as he truly was astounding in the role as a headstrong man who’s losing his grip on reality due to dementia.

The film started in a similar fashion as the play, with Anthony complaining to his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) that his watch has been stolen by his caregiver. Despite his daughter’s insistence that he’s only just misplaced it in the cupboard, Anthony refuses to believe her. There’s something wildly amusing in their banters, as Anthony is often quick with a joke even when he’s on edge. Anne meanwhile, is clearly concerned of her father’s deteriorating mind… it’s as if the more severe her dad’s cognitive decline, the more defiant he becomes in refusing her aid.

Zeller’s storytelling style really puts us, the audience, in Anthony’s mind… as soon we too, question the reality of what we’re watching. The actor switcheroo is one of the device used to make us question everything. In one scene we see Olivia Colman as Anne, then in another it’s Olivia Williams (the fact that the two actresses are named Olivia are inspired, perhaps even deliberate casting!) Same with Mark Gatiss and Rufus Sewell… uttering the same familiar dialog in their conversations while Anthony is convinced ‘there’s something funny going on’ that he keeps seeing strangers in his own home.

The scenes mostly take place in a London flat where Anthony now resides in, but the furnitures are in different places in one scene to the next. I started questioning myself as I’m watching this… Just where does Anthony live exactly? Is this posh London flat Antony’s or Anne’s home? Then there’s the thing about about Anne’s current situation… one moment she tells her father that she’s moving to Paris to start life with a new man, to which Anthony reply “Paris? They don’t even speak English there.” But the next moment Anne is baffled why Anthony would even think she’s moving to Paris as she’s intent in staying in London.

I haven’t felt so discombobulated and frustrated while watching a movie, unable to decipher between what’s real and what’s surreal, which is an effective way to immerse ourselves into a story about memory loss. I remember I felt the same way when I was watching the stage play, but I think the film enhanced that trippy feeling to even more devastating effect. Despite the morose subject matter though, this is not an entirely gloomy affair. It helps that cinematographer Ben Smithard allows a lot of light in to keep the mood less downcast.

Hopkins is absolutely perfect in the role, perhaps the most mesmerizing and moving performances I’ve seen him in. He embraces the inherent vulnerability of the role while imbuing it with a sense of wit and whimsy that makes Anthony such a fascinating character. Zeller allows some personal things of Hopkins to be a part of the film, such as using the Welsh actor’s own favorite classical music we see him enjoy in the kitchen and uttering his own birthdate as Anthony’s. Perhaps it makes the role more personal to him, as Hopkins certainly embodied him so beautifully. It’s such a contrast to his most famous role in The Silence of the Lamb… with the only similarity being he stars opposite a very strong female performer, which brings me to Olivia Colman.

I’ve always been a longtime fan of the English actress who seems really kind and good-natured in person. This compassionate, empathetic character seems to be made for her as Anne’s patience with her ailing father seems limitless. Even when her dad is often crass and unfeeling towards her by constantly bringing up his favorite daughter Lucy. Anne’s mental anguish is palpable and that brutal honesty is so moving. It’s a deeply emotional and nuanced performance that feels true without resorting to over-sentimentality.

Imogen Poots is splendid as Laura, the new caregiver Anne hired that Anthony took an immediate liking to. There are some funny bits where he told Laura he was a tap dancer… these moments of levity are definitely a welcome respite to an otherwise relentless mind-bending drama. Gattis, Sewell and Williams all have some memorable moments in their brief appearance. There’s a scene between Hopkins and Sewell that’s hard to watch, even though I’ve already seen it in the play. Of course we don’t even know if that scene actually happened or just Anthony’s mind playing tricks again.

I commend production designer Peter Francis for utilizing the flat itself as a storytelling tool with altering furniture arrangements to disorient the character. Despite being set in mostly a single location, the film didn’t feel claustrophobic. I think it helps that the characters sometimes step out of the flat, even a brief moment outside helps break the mundaneness. As a fan of classical music, I love the score as well, which works perfectly for the film. What a year for Ludovico Einaudi who’s also the composer for Nomadland.

Dementia is a heartbreaking disease that turns loved ones into strangers and this is one of those films that explore its effect in a beautifully-effective way. I actually don’t have any experience with dementia in my own family, at least not directly, still I couldn’t help tearing up watching this, especially towards the end. I can only imagine how tough it is for those who have family members dealing with memory loss, this might hit too close to home for them.

The Father is an astounding film that shows us what it means to be human and the harsh reality of aging. It definitely made me think about my own relationships with the people in my life, and not take my mental health for granted. Zeller has created a haunting portrayal of dementia that is truly, for lack of a better word, unforgettable.


Have you seen THE FATHER? Well, what did you think?

FEBRUARY Viewing Recap, Quick Thoughts on 2021 Golden Globes + Movie of the Month

Hello March! I’m just excited that Spring is just around the corner! After the Polar Vortext where temps dipped well below zero here in Minnesota, this week the highs will be in the 40s, woo hoo! [yep, we in MN do get excited about the weather, folks :D]

Oh yeah, I did watch parts of the Golden Globes last night but honestly, I don’t really care enough to dedicate a blog for its coverage. In fact, I even missed the first hour of the Globes as I came home late from running errands, so I just caught up w/ the monologue after the show.

Glad to see Tina Fey and Amy Poehler roasted the all-white HFPA members echoing the #TimesUpGlobes that’s been trending all last week.

As for the winners…

Well, the most emotional moment of the night has got to be when the late Chadwick Boseman (I still gets teary eyed even typing THAT) won for Best Actor for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. His wife Taylor Simone Ledward gave such a heart-rending speech… can’t imagine how she must have felt losing such a precious person. We all still miss you, Chadwick…

On a more positive note, I’m SO happy for Chloe Zhao for winning Best Director… AND Nomadland winning Best Motion Picture – Drama.

It’s a historic win as she’s the first Asian woman AND the second woman to win best director of a motion picture (since Barbra Streisand won in 1983 for Yentl).

On the TV front… this double win for Emma Corrin + Josh O’Connor who played Prince Charles + Princess Diana just made me smile

 

In any case, here’s what I watched in February:

NEW-TO-ME MOVIES

Photograph

Such a lovely film… I recommended this in my picks of non-English language romances list. I’m hoping to see The Lunch Box soon!

Blind Date – (French title: Un Peu, Beaucoup, Aveuglément)

Thanks Claire Packer of Cinematic Delights for recommending this delightful rom-com! 

In The Mood For Love

I can’t believe I haven’t watched this Wong Kar Wai’s classic sooner. I can see why this film is so beloved by many. The Criterion collection Blu-ray is currently on back-order!

I Care A Lot

(read my full review)

Rosamund Pike just won a Golden Globe for her role in this movie. She’s truly one of the main reasons to see this movie!

Shakespea-reTold – Macbeth

Though I love James McAvoy, I did not enjoy this modern Macbeth rendition at all. This star-studded Shakespea-reTold has been a hit and miss for me.

The Father

I saw the play version a couple of years ago at a local theater (which is actually owned by the lead actor on my short film Hearts Want), and it’s one of the most emotional stage performances I’ve ever seen. It’s actually directed and written by its own playwright Florian Zeller, so this is his feature directorial debut.

Raya and the Last Dragon

I got an early screening for this and still working on the full review. My beef with some screeners is that the picture quality isn’t on par with the regular streaming feature, it’s quite obvious the visuals just doesn’t look as sharp as if I were to rent this once it’s available on streaming. I find that annoying and dumb as you’d think they’d want to showcase the best quality screeners for professional critics who’d judge the visual quality of the film?

Palm Springs

My hubby and I was looking for a short-er movie (around 90 minutes) last Saturday night as we got home late from dinner, and this one fits the bill. It’s quite a fun movie that takes the Groundhog Day stuck-in-a-time-loop concept feels fresh and surprisingly sweet despite some raunchy and utterly bizarre moments.


Series:

Lupin

In case you missed my Top 10 list why people should watch this French series, well, let Omar Sy‘s charm + uber coolness sway you.

Wanda Vision

One more episode of season 1!! That last episode’s tone definitely changed between horror and emotional drama… As someone who has lost a mother early in life, this line will stay with me for a while…

Behind Her Eyes

I haven’t quite recovered yet from the bonkers ending and #TomBateman’s hotness 😛 (I’ve seen this British hunk in quite a few things and he’s SO underrated!! I’m still hoping he’d get his breakthrough role one day)

A Discovery of Witches – S2

I have to say the pace of this show could’ve been much improved… but I’m enjoying the gorgeous costumes + scenery… and how hot #MatthewGoode looks in this Elizabethan getup.


Rewatches:

I didn’t have much time to rewatch many things this past month (it was a short month), but I did watch a few favorites.

The American President

Sabrina

Rocketeer


MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

The Father

This could be one of the best performances of Anthony Hopkins and perhaps his most vulnerable. Olivia Colman is so amazing as the daughter, and further proves what a fantastic and versatile actress she is (given my first intro of her was in comedic roles). I was really rooting for her in the Best Supporting Actress. Having seen The Mauritanian, I think Colman’s performance was way better and more emotionally-resonant than Jodie Foster’s.


Well, what did you watch in February and what’s YOUR fave movie you saw last month?