The 2021 Best Picture Nominees: The Father

| April 17, 2021

At last!  After, arguably, the strangest year in movie history, The 93rd Academy Awards are almost here – just 9 days from now.  And to get ready, I’m taking a look at each of the eight films selected as Oscar’s best.  Are they?  Are they really?

When it comes to Oscar nominees, Florian Zeller’s The Father would seem par for the course, given that it is about a man suffering from the advanced stages of dementia.  Yet, this is a movie that never seems to be grasping for your sympathies.  Zeller, who based the story on his own stage play Le Père, knows that the subject matter is emotional enough and doesn’t need any help.  It doesn’t need musical stings, swelling orchestrations or tiresome speeches.  His film instead focuses on specific details; conversations, household objects, dinner and how the manifestation of such an impairment can frustrate the common things in our immediate surroundings.

Anthony Hopkins stars as a retired engineer who is suffering from dementia.  He forgets things, gets things mixed up, talks to people that he thinks are strangers and often forgets where he is.  The ingenious part of this is that the movie takes place from his point of view.  The narrative is laid out in such a way that we discover things as he does.  He meets someone who is later revealed to have been only in his mind.  He walks through doors only to realize that he’s not where he thought he was.  His daughter comes home and looks completely different (played by a different actress).

In lesser hands The Father could have been just a cruel gimmick but thanks to Hopkins’ performance and Zeller’s careful direction (and Olivia Colman as Hopkins’ exasperated daughter) the film grounds itself in an emotional reality twisted around sort of modern domestic retelling of King Lear, a story of a man who comes to the startling realization the he can no longer trust his own mind.  

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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