The Father

The Father ★★★★★

Moving from non-diegetic sound to diegetic sound of classical music the dementia-afflicted titular father is listening to while relaxing, we right away found ourselves slipping into his mind and, subsequently, descending into his deteriorating mental state. Thus, we're instantly warned that what we're going to witness of events are, by and large, untrustworthy. Adopting such narrative technique isn't the easiest to pull off, never mind when applied to a character-driven story about a man doubting "the fabric of his reality." For in case it failed, the story would be in total shambles (Capone is a case in point, assuming that was its intent in the first place); and if it paid off, the story would offer us a sympathetic look at its main character. Florian Zeller managed to do the near-impossible, generating empathy towards a character we're not suffering from what it suffers by tapping on the truth we relentlessly evade each time we see our grandparents, for instance, fail to recall words, our names or even to recognise who we are while they're doing their utmost to convince us otherwise. This film embraces this fear to a disturbingly horrifying degree. We found ourselves pondering over what we see as an impending condition so much so we're simultaneously letting the uneasiness dominates our thoughts while we're sitting watching the movie.

Zeller also managed here to give The Father a clinical quality reminiscent of psychological horror films to keep us always on the verge of being painfully unsettled at any time. High pitched sharp sounds and disquietingly cozy furniture(s) are here to accentuate this feeling so that a little boundary-pushing moment would send a shiver down the spine along with some suppressed tears begging to be shed. And then we have Hopkins delivering a tour de force performance that will soon or later be regarded as one of his best. Through his character, we see him in an utter bewilderment, incessantly trying to figure out what's happening around him and make sense of all that "nonsense" in such manner that force you to do so along with him. That's the definition of an engaging performance. Another thing I noticed through his facial expressions is the that he seems to be constantly processing his surroundings as well as every words he hears. A truly brilliant performance that dictates how similar characters should be played. I'm really hoping Riz Ahmed wins since it would be his first Oscar but, truth be told, Sir Hopkins is more worthy of it. Olivia Colman is absolutely amazing as always, but it's Imogen Poots as the nurse (Laura) that caught me off guard with the scenes she shares with Anthony. The spontaneity of elderly people that can be inadvertently offensive and their fear of being mocked at or at least of being treated rather as children collide here in way that made me continuously switch back and forth between sympathising towards each of them. This is a unique, unprecedented cinematic achievement, and definitely my favourite movie of 2020.


~Spoiler Alert~

A spoiler warning here as I'm talking about a certain motif in this movie, that is the "watch". Besides the "apples" in Pieces of a Woman, this is yet another deft use of motifs in movies from the last year. The watch here indicates Anthony's grasp of the sense of time and age. His watch is first mentioned as being snatched by Laura. Later on, we see Anthony suspects Paul to be wearing his watch. In both occasions, it was the first time for him to be introduced to these characters, and the fact he failed to recognise them made them sources of intimidation that threaten his supposed control over his memory. In the soul-crushing ending scene where he's with his nurse, Catherine, he says that he wants his mom but his nurse corrects him, saying he means his daughter. However, he insists that it's his mom, then he mentions that he wants her and that he's losing his leaves. Then, in a last desperate attempt to convince himself of his sanity, he says that he knows that his watch is on his wrist. From all this we may gather that his last monologue seems to sum up all his life, and his aging to be precise. His life went in full circle and now he's a child again in a pressing need of his mom.

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