If you know anything about The Father — heck, if you even just read the title of this review — you probably know that its central character struggles with dementia. The disease is a terrible one to be sure, but plenty of works of art in the past have explored its impacts on the human condition. None come close to this one.

Anthony Hopkins plays the title character, unsettlingly named Anthony, who struggles with the sudden announcement that his daughter and primary caretaker Anne (played with characteristic grace by Olivia Coleman) is moving to Paris while Anthony stays with a caretaker in London.

All that follows the first scene is like driving through fog: so much is obscured that, once something is actually visible, the clarity is almost overwhelming. The film isn’t exactly from Anthony’s perspective, but its style does allow the viewer to get a true sense not just of his disorientation but how that disorientation wracks someone emotionally.

The Father is directed by Florian Zeller and adapted from his play of the same name; this latter fact shows. If there is a complaint to be made about the film, it’s that little is done with the format of cinema itself. While there are no directorial missteps, I’m not sure how much better this movie is than a filmed version of the play would have been — both excellent, mind you.

It’s difficult for us today to separate our understanding of the soul from the mind: the way someone tells jokes, someone reacts to bad news, or someone cares about certain subjects are all products of the mind, and yet they feel much deeper to us. Zeller uses dementia in The Father not just to highlight the pain of the disease but to explore the uncertainties of living at all. Anthony is commanding and boorish and desperate all at once — is this a product of his condition? Perhaps, but it’s also a natural response to the vagaries of life itself.

It goes without saying that Hopkins absolutely steals the show here. He receives strong support from the likes of Mark GatissRufus SewellOlivia Williams, and a particularly spot-on Imogen Poots, but so rarely does an actor elevate already-excellent material in the way Hopkins does here. It would be a crown jewel & fitting end to any great career, but knowing him, this is likely just a preview of what’s to come.

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