It’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing an all-time performance. One doesn’t seek it out, but rather, it finds them. It can be in any genre or subgenre, with the actor displaying all of the right emotions necessary to believe they have transformed themselves into their screen persona. And, as the credits begin to roll and the lights come up, you sit back and marvel at how the performer pulled it off. It can be easy to marvel at a raising, up-and-coming star but the true best of the best that continue, over time, to show everyone just how wonderful they are. And with his performance in The Father, Anthony Hopkins not only proves yet again why he is one of the best living actors on the planet, but he gives us his best performance of his career and of the year.
Hopkins plays Anthony, an older gentleman who lives in his apartment in London, struggling with his deteriorating memory loss. He has conversations that lead to arguments daily with his daughter Anne (Academy Award winner Olivia Colman), all the while trying to keep everything together in his head. He also visions other people coming in and out of his home, talking with them, and then they disappear. With this and other twists and turns throughout the 99-minute runtime, we see Anthony’s world crumble around him, leaving him in a vulnerable, tragic start by the end of the film.
The whole project hinges on the audience’s ability to buy into what Hopkins is bringing on the screen. Some may consider it overacting but, on a personal level, it’s the most realistic portrayal of dementia ever put to screen. I’ve seen what this disease has done to my own grandparents, and as this movie was playing, and I watched this magnificent performance, painful memories of my past came back, thus leaving me a mess from scene to scene. It’s so accurate, it’s almost as if The Father was meant to be more of a horror film than a prestige drama. From scene to scene, we are taken through the mind, body, and soul of a human being that is on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. From the moment we start the film, and he is sitting in his chair talking to Colman, Hopkins hooks you in with every word he says, not knowing if he has it all together or if he is figuring out what is going on in the film at the same time as the audience.
That’s the trick in playing someone with this disease, there has to be unpredictability in every scene. In one scene he is dancing around, all smiles, wanting to have an afternoon drink. The next he is yelling and frustrated with where things are and who is in his home. And then there is the ending, the highlight of the entire project, where he is so vulnerable, where he mentally converts back to a childlike state. Anthony shaking, crying for his mother, struggling to stay in the present. With this, your heart breaks for Anthony, who doesn’t want to be alone and just wants his family. It’s a chilling last impression and one that can’t get out of your head for days after you see it.
With this performance, Hopkins landed his sixth Oscar nomination at the bright age of 83. While it is very rare for many actors to give us such stellar work this late into their career, Hopkins proved he is still at the top of his game. He’s not missed a single precursor this entire Oscar season, making him in many awards pundits’ eyes as the number two in this race.
And while this race for Best Actor seemed to be locked up just about a week ago due to Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) winning every prize this season, the BAFTAs shockingly rewarded Hopkins its lead actor award. With this, it proved that a sweep in this category is not necessary and that it’s totally okay if the Oscar voters want to cast their choice for another actor that isn’t Boseman. So, if any Oscar voter is reading this, know that if you think Hopkins gave the best performance of the year, go ahead and do it. It is a beloved performance in one of the best films of the year. No need for a guilty conscience, vote for Hopkins and reward him for an astonishing performance in what has been a legendary career.
Oscar voting begins April 15 and ends on April 20.
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics