Watching The Father, I was reminded of Sound of Metal, which I think deserves awards for using sound as an entry into the main character's experiences. In The Father, Anthony Hopkins plays an old man with growing dementia. It was a hard movie to follow, until I realized that the director was using confusion as an entry to the main character's experiences. Nothing made sense, just when you thought you understood something, it turned into something else ... just as was happening with Hopkins' character. Weird thing is, I wasn't liking the movie, even after I realized what it was up to. Not sure why what worked for me in Sound of Metal turned me off in The Father.
It's easy to see that I was being unfair to Florian Zeller, who had a smart method of presenting his material. In fact, The Father is one of the better screen representations of dementia. (Zeller originally wrote it as a play, and its stage origins are obvious, although they are not intrusive.) Considering this was Zeller's debut as a feature director, the results are even more impressive. I found it funny at times, but I wasn't sure if Zeller had written a comedy or not ... I found myself worried I was laughing at the "wrong parts". Ultimately, there is no question that The Father is filled with sadness, but I'm pretty sure if I watched it again, I'd laugh once more at those parts.
Anthony Hopkins is very deserving of his Oscar nomination. It's a role with the potential for plenty of Oscar bait, but Hopkins never falls into that trap. He covers a lot of ground, from charming to mean-spirited to simply confused, but he's always believable ... you don't get the feeling he's polishing his Oscar for his shelf at home. He's now been nominated for five Oscars since his lone win for The Silence of the Lambs, an impressive if frustrating achievement. As good as he is here, and he is the equal of the other nominees, he likely stands no chance against the equally deserving Chadwick Boseman. In fact, The Father earned six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Olivia Colman). I'd say the best of the movie's nominees is Yorgos Lamprinos for Editing ... he is the reason I was so confused, so I suppose I should be mad at him, but he pulls off the confusion.
Fans of acting should enjoy The Father. And fans of challenging approaches to films will appreciate what Zeller pulls off.