Review: The mind plays tricks on us and the discombobulated title character in Florian Zeller’s classy adaptation of his award-winning stage play, co-written for the screen by Christopher Hampton. Set in the handsomely furnished London apartment of an octogenarian patriarch (Sir Anthony Hopkins), The Father slowly unpicks the seams of supposed reality and questions the reliability of a muddied memory. Peter Francis’s ingenious production design ramps up the unease. As the fragile consciousness of the befuddled protagonist fractures before our tear-filled eyes, furniture, fixtures and colour schemes of eight rooms linked by a central hallway subtly change to heighten the disorientation and sow seeds of doubt about everything we see and hear.
It’s a masterful demonstration of mood manipulation, reflected in contrasting warm ochre and cool blue palettes to represent a soothing past and an unsettling present filled with uncomfortable choices. Hopkins deservedly won his second Academy Award as Best Actor In A Leading Role – and thwarted Chadwick Boseman’s posthumous coronation – for his mesmerising performance as a man grappling with dementia. Zeller’s picture unfolds from his clouded perspective and the Welsh actor is truly astonishing at conveying the see-sawing emotions of someone who can’t quite articulate that sense of slipping away (“I feel as if I’m losing all my leaves”). Hopkins whirls effortlessly from volcanic rage to tremulous gut-wrenching despair, and co-star Olivia Colman reacts beautifully to this cascading turmoil with a supporting performance of aching vulnerability, sorrow and guilt.
Anthony (Hopkins) lives in a plush apartment in Maida Vale with an elevated view of bustling life in the capital. He is visited daily by his doting daughter, Anne (Colman), who is preparing to move to Paris with her husband Paul (Rufus Sewell). “The rats are leaving the ship,” Anthony mutters to himself, shortly before a new carer called Laura (Imogen Poots) cheerfully enters the fray.
Paul is evidently the driving force behind hushed conversations about putting Anthony in a home and the husband coldly voices his feelings when Anne is out of the room by asking his father-in-law: “How much longer do you intend to hang around?” The beleaguered patriarch repeatedly misplaces a treasured wristwatch and becomes agitated when a different woman (Olivia Williams) enters the flat claiming to be Anne. “There is something funny going on,” he correctly surmises.
The Father will strike a heart-breaking chord with anyone who has watched an elderly relative succumb to the choking grip of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Fleeting moments of recognition and clarity between Anthony and Anne are the most devastating because we know it could be mere seconds before the fog descends again. Zeller remains tightly focussed on the actors, particularly Hopkins. In the same way that Anthony cannot wriggle free from the chains of his delirium, nor can we.
Find The Father in the cinemas
Review: Screenwriter Derek Kolstad may have a casual disregard for human life, judging by the outrageous body counts in his gratuitously violent films, but he’s a sucker for a household pet. In John Wick, a chronic case of beagle puppy love propels a retired assassin, played by Keanu Reeves, on a balletic revenge mission against a Russian crime lord and his gun-toting goons. Now in Nobody, the theft of a little girl’s treasured kitty cat bracelet enrages a retired government assassin or “auditor”, played with deadpan fervour by Bob Odenkirk, and ignites a turf war with a flamboyant Russian hoodlum and his posse.
Both pictures are hard-boiled to a tried and trusted recipe of breathlessly choreographed fight sequences that rely on slow motion to land the fatal blow. The tasty extra ingredient in Nobody is Odenkirk, best known as shady lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, who brings an appealing hangdog weariness and pathos to the role of a mild-mannered family man with a killer past and a burning desire to embrace white picket-fenced suburbia. Whether he’s quietly begging his wife (Connie Nielsen) to give their stagnant marriage another chance – “Remember who we used to be? I do” – or expertly booby-trapping a factory with deadly devices Home Alone-stylee, Odenkirk elevates the pulpy material. He’s the beating heart beneath the wanton carnage.
Russian director Ilya Naishuller wastes little time with formalities, introducing despondent office worker Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) with a snappy montage that paints the family man as a crushing disappointment to his spouse and children (Gage Munroe, Paisley Cadorath). When two armed robbers break into the family home late at night, Hutch freezes in the act of protecting the brood and he weathers greater disappointment in the eyes of his teenage son.
Brother-in-law Charlie (Billy MacLellan) forces Hutch to take possession of a gun – “Keep my sister safe, bro!” – but it’s not until little Sammy notices her favourite piece of feline-themed jewellery is missing that the father’s blood boils over. He tracks down the burglars and, on his way home by bus, Hutch protects a terrified female passenger from a drunken gang by savagely beating the thugs. One of the aggressors, Teddy (Aleksandr Pal), is the younger brother of sadistic Russian mob boss Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksei Serebryakov), who vows revenge for the slight against his family.
Nobody is a slickly executed bloodbath that gives us repeated cause to marvel at brilliantly staged fight sequences. The five-on-one brawl on a bus that sets everything in motion builds momentum and our adrenaline rush with ruthless precision. Odenkirk convincingly embraces the physicality of his role, while Christopher Lloyd and RZA add gentle comic relief as Hutch’s retired FBI agent father and half-brother, who share the predilection for gun play. The family that slays together, stays together.
Find Nobody in the cinemas