The Father  Review – A Masterclass of The Show Don’t Tell Storytelling Method
The slowing down of the human mind is a natural process as humans age, and it is something that needs awareness, as at times it’s hard to understand what the person, their family, or their caregivers go through. As is common with the human mind, anyone will attempt to fill the dots and find a meaning to their lives, but realities can be fantasies that get reinforced by unwavering confidence and belief. At times these individuals’ fantasies become so real that it disrupts the lives of everyone around them. This, in turn, becomes part of the construed reality of the film that we see through the eyes of the protagonist and as neutral third-party observers. Directed by Florian Zeller in an adaptation of his play Lè Pere, ‘The Father’ is a 2020 film that provides some much-needed, but not overly dramatic focus on the inevitable consequences of growing old.
Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Anthony who is the central character in this film and the titular ‘The Father’. The octogenarian actor seems to be on a late-career renaissance as he has earned consecutive Oscar nods for the first time in his career (they previously nominated him for his work as Pope Benedict XVI in The Two Popes). Hopkins appears bewildered, crazy, confused, confident and assured. He can be likened to a stubborn child or maybe even a frightened one as nothing around him seems to make sense. He relies on over-explaining things, which in retrospect led me to believe that he was reassuring himself of his beliefs.
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His performance helps cinemagoers empathize with his struggles as well as enhance the moments of anguish or exasperation shown by his co-stars, who always seemed to be tentative upon listening to him speak. Chief among them were Olivia Colman and Imogen Poots, who gave impressive performances and reactions to Anthony to let viewers get a glimpse at how different spectrums of individuals associated with those suffering from dement react to the same. Colman as the daughter is concerned and embodies the role of the parent to The Father who can be likened to a child. Poots as the nurse borders on the ability to be a firm and yet enthusiastic source of support to her patient who can be exasperating in the eyes of society.
Hopkins’ scene at the climax takes the cake and could be the piece of acting that seals his return to the winner’s circle at the Academy Awards after almost three decades away. That’s not to take away from his portrayal of Anthony in the film, but this one scene at the end is what will remain in the minds of the audiences as the end credits roll and as they try to pick apart Zeller’s offering.
Acting aside, ‘The Father’ is a film rich in craft and the manner of storytelling. The movie provokes the viewer to comprehend what’s going as the director continuously drops hints of the underlying reality through dialogues, minor changes in set design combined with the editing, and the incredible performances. These elements lead the viewer to believe that everything is not as it seems. (Well, that holds for everything except for language used for communication in Paris.)
This in turn can ensure that there is an immense re-watch value for those who would look for the clues in retrospect and sit to analyze the film in-depth. I wasn’t that fortunate though.
The details may not hit as hard on a rewatch and hence, it may keep people away as the sudden dawning of reality may not have the impact as it did on the first watch. That may not matter as ‘The Father’ has the ability to make you scratch your head on a first watch itself.
‘The Father’ employs the show don’t tell method of storytelling. However, it shows enough and regularly to let the audience constantly think and question what they see. Hence, the end goal doesn’t blindside them and make it seem rushed and thrown in for dramatic effect after a pedestrian beginning. It seems to have titbits throughout its 97 minute run time and one can’t level the criticism of it dragging at any point.
Kudos to the Editor Yorgos Lamprinos here for putting together such a crisp yet meaningful film that captured me and seamlessly drew me into Anthony’s world which was covered by Ben Smithard’s camera.
‘The Father’ is a film that will bring awareness to the issue of dementia and will be remembered. Cinephiles and students of cinema could pay heed to this structured and layered production which shows that a combination of branches coming together in small ways is what makes a film earn accolades as a whole.