Review of “The Father (2020)”

In my return to the theater for the first time since March of 2020, I decided to see what I figured would at least be an interesting experience: The Father, starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. I was not let down, and this might be a contender for one of my favorite 2021 films so far.

I will do my best to avoid spoilers because I legitimately believe this is a film that is best enjoyed by going in as blind as possible, so I will summarize thusly: Anthony Hopkins plays Anthony, an elderly man in the early stages of dementia, whose daughter Anne (played by Olivia Colman) helps to support. As the story progresses, we see just how much of Anthony’s life is altered not only by his mental status but as things in his life change rapidly around him. And while the story may seem simplistic, its delivery is done very pristinely and with exquisite care, with presentation that suits the nature of the plot perfectly. Plenty is there to absorb and has plenty of content to watch multiple times, allowing you to really notice individual background details every time you go through.

Music present in this film serves two purposes: both to set the atmosphere but also to serve as developments with the characters in-universe, particularly that of Anthony, who experiences multiple points of his life through music. Those musical cues serving as pivotal points is extremely effective and also emotionally devastating at points. Original music composed by David Menke perfectly accompanies central pieces from Ludovico Einaudi, whose Cold Wind Variations serve as audial cues for relating time at certain points throughout the film. Naturally, all of the music perfectly fits the mood for every scene and has multiple reasons for its inclusion. In fact, virtually every element of this film is reincorporated in ways you can’t expect, or has multiple layers to its purpose and reason for its existence in the film’s universe.

What really sells this film is the standout performances from Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, who both deliver supremely powerful characters, with intense subtle nuances that make them believable people. Aided by some stellar screenwriting with great dialogue that is made all the more natural by the rest of the cast rounding out, and you’ve got a recipe for a great film. It’s difficult to describe why these performances are fantastic without spoiling the film, but just trust me when I say that every actor present does an exceptional job covering an entire range of emotions that make every single person feel like a legitimate human being and not a character written for the screen.

In fact, there aren’t many failings in this film. Shot composition is, overall, careful and beautiful, but it becomes clear that while these things are great, they are not perfect nor quite exceptional. In fact, though I praised the acting and character building in the paragraph before, it often feels as though this film relies too much on those performances to carry its weight. Instead of having some utterly exceptional cinematography serve as a compliment to the acting, instead we get some very good camerawork to carry it forward. Once again, not saying anything present in this film is bad at all, but it is clear that it could have been even better. Given how this film absolutely wrecked me emotionally, small nitpickings are some of the best you could deliver when everything else comes into play so effectively. As such, I give this film a 9 out of 10.

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