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Review: TIFF 2020: ‘The Father’ is devastatingly authentic (capsule) (Includes first-hand account)

The Father puts viewers in the shoes of Anthony (Sir Anthony Hopkins), an affluent retiree entering the late stages of dementia. Unwilling to admit he needs assistance, he’s rudely run-off several caregivers hired by his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman). In the meantime, Anthony wanders around in his pyjamas more frequently, fails to recognize his family or his surroundings, and loses track in the midst of basic tasks.

Writer/director Florian Zeller’s debut feature is an adaptation of a play that personifies dementia. The experience of watching the picture is simultaneously sad and terrifying. Anthony’s symptoms are depicted in a manner that initially confuses audiences until they gradually realize that this is, to some degree, a first-person perspective of life with the disease, which adds a solemn weight to the film experience. Hopkins is definitely on a gold-paved path to awards season with his exceptional performance. His portrayal of Anthony’s memory lapses, as well as impaired reasoning and social abilities are devastatingly authentic. It’s also something to see a Hollywood icon in such a vulnerable state.

The whole concept and its execution are quite effective and affecting. While it’s still impossible to know exactly what it’s like to live with dementia, this glimpse into the disease will not be easily forgotten — nor will Hopkins’ performance.

The Father played in the Special Presentations category at the Toronto International Film Festival. Check back for our full review closer to the theatrical release date.

Director: Florian Zeller
Starring: Olivia Colman, Anthony Hopkins and Imogen Poots

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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