Run time: 96 mins
Florian Zeller’s The Father originated as a Rubik’s Cube of a drama about the tricks a mind plays in advanced deterioration. This spiky, discombobulating piece was transferred to the London stage in 2015.
The film, directed by Zeller himself and starring a fiercely powerful, Bafta and Oscar-winning Anthony Hopkins, maintains the same slippery structure. The Father is set almost entirely in a house – where fast-waning retired engineer Anthony (Hopkins) stays with his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman).
The Father functions like a mystery, as we are each immersed in Anthony’s unreliable perspective. Like a magician, Zeller brilliantly fashions illusion out of disillusion, challenging us to try to distinguish precisely what is true in a confusing environment. He uses conventions of film like a master manipulator, creating a space that always exists conceptually as opposed to literally.
For the many people impacted by dementia, it won’t be an easy watch – and for those who have experienced it in the past, it may feel like a gentle pressure on an old wound. But it’s a real window into an affliction that is both commonplace and unfathomable. And in that sense, it is a gift. (Jack Whiting)