4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Anthony Hopkins won his second Best Actor Academy Award as Anthony, a man who has been slowly losing his memory.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray; 2020; PG-13 for some strong profanity and thematic material; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Perception Check: Portrait of THE FATHER” documentary
THIS OSCAR winner is a beautifully made, exquisitely acted, devastating downer of a movie. Thanks to the skills of French writer/director Florian Zeller, who adapted the screenplay from his French stage play, viewers will come away from the film with a small sense of what it must be like to suffer from dementia.
It’s hard to believe this was Zeller’s debut as a movie director. He won an Academy Award for his adapted screenplay, and Anthony Hopkins earned his second Best Actor Oscar (at 83, the oldest actor winner in Academy history) for his excruciatingly believable portrayal of Anthony, a man who has been slowly losing his memory. His confusion about his surroundings, and the people he encounters there, by turns, enrage and frighten him, while his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman, who was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar) tries to help him accept the inevitable and deal with his (and her) future. The rest of the cast – Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, Mark Gatiss and Imogen Poots – are also outstanding.
(1&2) “The Father” is the motion picture directorial debut for French novelist, playwright and theatre director Florian Zeller. (2-4) Anthony has lived in his London flat for 30 years. And, his daugther Anne (Olivia Colman) makes regular visits checking on him.
Sony Pictures Classics provides an exclusive 4K Ultra HD release on digital, showcasing all a viewer could require in terms of clarity, color saturation, skin tone, and contrast. The 1080p physical disc also looks first-rate. Zeller and his British cinematographer Ben Smithard (“Downton Abbey,” “Belle”) captured the drama on three predominantly interior sets (Anthony’s flat of 30 years, Anne’s flat, and the residential care home) using 6K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio), flawlessly mastered in TRUE 4K. The 4K digital has a slight edge in overall clarity from distant objects within the apartments to the tight framing of Anthony’s face.
The HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading presents a more dramatic palette of color and contrast, which would’ve been a top-notch 4K disc if it had been made available. Sadly, not a single 2021 Best Picture Academy Award-nominated film got a 4K disc release. “The Father” received six nominations.
The Blu-ray features an impeccable uncompressed six-channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack, while digital is coded with the slightly less robust 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus. In both formats, the dialogue is always crisp and intelligible, with perfectly balanced effects and a quiet, moving score by Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi. Zeller repurposed tracks from Einaudi’s previous work composed after a seven-day hike in the Italian Alps. Director Chloé Zhao also used different tunes from the same work for her Oscar winner “Nomadland.” In addition, several operatic melodies from Henry Purcell, Vincenzo Bellini and Georges Bizet are used throughout. English subtitles are provided.
(1) Anne continues to worry about her father. (2) Anthony returns home from the market, and finds a strange man in the living room claiming to be Anne’s husband, Paul (Mark Gatiss). (3) He’s confused again when he doesn’t recognize a woman claiming to be his daughter Anne (Olivia Williams). (4&5) Anthony watches Anne leave his flat from his window.
Bonus features (digital & disc) include a making-of documentary and a few deleted scenes. The documentary is especially informative. In it, Zeller describes his creative process: “To me, writing is like dreaming … it is only when I finished it that I became aware of what I was trying to say, what I was trying to tell.” He explains, “I wanted the audience to be in a very active position … as if they were, in a way, experiencing a slice of dementia.”
Zeller also talks about his original theatrical version: “Even when it was in French, it sounded to me like an English story.” He wanted “strong, powerful English actors to make it believable as an English story.” Zeller calls Coleman, the “greatest actress in the UK,” and notes the film is “also the story of Anthony’s daughter.”
Hopkins explains that a couple of years ago Zeller had told him that he wrote the screenplay with Hopkins in mind. “I thought it was a bit of flannel … I didn’t believe it … but, apparently, it was.” The actor says he drew from his own life to create the character, revealing “What I was playing was my own father, in a way … Toward the end of his life, he started to lose it in the last few weeks … and he could wither you with a look – And so can I!” Producer David Parfitt acknowledges Hopkins’ ability to make his on-screen personality switch from “charming to dangerous.”
Coleman says she thought Zeller’s screenplay was “one of the most extraordinarily beautifully written pieces about this subject … it causes you to see it through Anthony’s eyes … (and you think,) “Oh God, that’s awful! That’s what it must be like.” Williams agrees: “As the audience, you are as confused and disoriented as the sufferer.” About working with Hopkins, the actress gushes, “It’s been a dream come true … He’s such a joyful man!”
Gatiss adds to the universal praise for Hopkins: “He’s sitting on a volcano of Welsh talent – a formidable presence.”
— Peggy Earle
(1&2) Anthony moves into Anne’s flat and home caregiver candidate Laura (Imogen Poots) is charmed by Anthony. “I say, you’re gorgeous...Haven’t we met before?” he says. He also tells her he once was a tap dancer and offers her a whiskey. (3) Anthony is confused again, and doesn’t recognize Paul (Rufus Sewell) (4&5) Anne watches over her father and his condition continues to decline.