Florian Zeller play ‘Le Pere’ has won the Moliere award in 2014, then was adapted for the French film FLORIDE in 2015, helmed by Philippe Le Guay. Then in 2020 it was made into the English language film THE FATHER. This version is helmed by Florian Zeller. Which might give us pause for thought. The story focuses on Anne (Olivia Colman), who is visiting her father Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) in his flat in London. He has again come into conflict with another caregiver and they have left him. He has dementia, which mixes and merges important life events with equally important events. The framing of this is ruptured and disorientating to the drop in and out viewer. Staged like a play, within his and his daughters flat, it is claustrophobic in setting and in atmosphere. Things move in the flat, as Anthony memories dilute and distil. He loses and finds things that include his watch. He tells Anne he believes his caregiver is a thief, who stole his watch and then his watch is found. This simple gesture, is all the more harsh as its disruption is painful to Anthony. We pain for Anthony as his mind and faculty is lost to the elements.

Anne tells Anthony she is moving to Paris to be with a man, which confuses Anthony since he doesn’t recall any men in her life since the end of her marriage to James (Mark Gatiss). Anne says that if he keeps refusing to have a caregiver, she will have to move him into a nursing home and her new partner Paul (Rufus Sewell) seems a driving force for this. Memory is not to be trusted however and sometimes it is bringing back the daughter he lost or it is increases the pain of his condition, Signposting of some of the events in the film are heavy and obvious but at its core is two exceptional performances. These underpin that Zeller is crafting a theatre film (the constraints of the stage are only overcome rarely by panning shots and framing) but it never matters.

Colman and Hopkins love onscreen is tender and transcends a void that is his memory. They bound, she hurts, he inflicts then misremembers, then pre figures. I can only that the heart of the piece here, is that the two connect. Hopkins was the perfect choice as the central focus and Zeller aids with restrained direction. Zellers direction also adds weight to the words and allows the disruptive elements of time and space to gel together. In others hands it would and could have been harsh but it really captures the horror of losing your memory. As this is about how we or should I say, what Anthony perceives as reality, you need someone who handles the whole with a touch that is both light and definite. Outstanding.






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