Review: The Father - devastating, brilliant, heartbreaking

The Father, Cineworld Cinemas, (12a), (97 mins).

The Father
The Father

In the bleakest imaginable 97 minutes, The Father offers a devastating glimpse of the fate that potentially awaits us all.

Anthony Hopkins – and goodness, the Oscar seems absolutely the minimum reward – gives a performance beyond superb as the father of the title, a man who succumbs to his own doubts and confusions after his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) announces her intention to move to Paris.

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Or does she?

That’s the precisely the brilliance of this remarkable film. We experience reality as the father Anthony sees it – which means we haven’t got a clue for the most part what on earth is going on.

Every time we think we’ve got a handle on who’s who and what’s what, all perspective changes and we are fighting again for clues so astonishingly does the film plunge us into Anthony’s world.

And so we see him as insidiously charming one moment and then brutally cruel the next, as vague and detached and then simply sobbing, obsessed with his watch, obsessed with time – the only ways he feels he can cling on to anything at all.

It is grim, depressing viewing, a hugely ordinary world made deeply disturbing by the prism of dementia through which it is viewed.

If you have been anywhere close to this kind of situation, you will wince again and again with pain and with sad recognition.

In Carers Week of all weeks, The Father should be required viewing – a compassionate, intelligent look into the terrors of a frightened man unable to trust anything or anyone, so he believes – least of all himself.

Hopkins is simply remarkable, the bravest, most skilful performance we are likely to see all year. Masterful direction from Florian Zeller from his own play.