French novelist and playwright Florian Zeller may be a first-time filmmaker, but he appears to have the skills of a seasoned pro. His debut feature, The Father—adapted from his award-winning 2012 play of the same name—has a 100% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 85 reviews. Of course, star Anthony Hopkins, playing an 80-year-old man grappling with dementia, has a little something to do with that. What critics are saying:
- "At once stupendously effective and profoundly upsetting, The Father might be the first movie about dementia to give me actual chills," writes Jeannette Catsoulis at the New York Times. It "plays with perspective so cleverly that maintaining any kind of emotional distance is impossible." Indeed, "Zeller's relentlessly subjective approach places us slap-bang in the middle of Anthony's distorted memories" so viewers "question where—and when—we are."
- It's the absence of stability that makes the film "such a stunning experience"—"a sensory free-for-all compressed into austere poetry," writes Joe Morgenstern at the Wall Street Journal. Playing "intricate mind games with the audience," Zeller offers up a film that is "beguiling, unsparing, terribly moving and occasionally very funny," but Hopkins is "master of it all," he adds. "Actor merges with character in a performance that’s astonishing and inspiring in equal measure."
- Hopkins gives his best performance in decades in this "immersive character study of an elderly man struggling to rationalize his existence as he loses his grip on the people and things around him," Brian Truitt writes at USA Today. An "astounding" Hopkins "gets to touch every bit of the emotional spectrum and the result is as indelible a role as when Hopkins donned Hannibal's mask and won an Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs."
- "It's some of the absolute best work of Hopkins' lengthy and storied career," but fellow Oscar winner Olivia Colman, playing Hopkins' daughter, "is consistently his equal," writes Christy Lemire at RogerEbert.com. "As our guide—as much as Zeller will allow us one—Colman is tremendous," she writes. Lemire also applauds production designer Peter Francis and editor Yorgos Lamprinos. Lamprinos’ work here "is so complicated and yet so understated, it's like a magic trick right before our eyes."
The film is out in select theaters on Friday and nationwide on March 12. (Read more movie review