Writer/director Florian Zeller, adapting his prize-winning, 2012 French play of the same name with the help of the legendary Christopher Hampton, has pulled off a dazzling feat here. He puts us within the mind of the ailing Hopkins’ Anthony, allowing us to experience his confusion as if it were our own. But he also offers the perspective of the caretakers and loved ones who try to settle his volatile temper and organize his jumbled memories. We never know what’s true—or who, for that matter, as characters come and go and take on various names and identities, depending on his recognition of them. Everything is fleeting and yet each specific moment feels urgent and real.
Struggling to navigate this muddied mélange of past and present is a brilliant Hopkins, giving an Oscar winning performance that’s both charismatic and ferocious, sometimes within the same breath. There’s mind-blowing specificity to his technique here as he’s called upon to convey a wide range of feelings and emotions, but also a softness and openness we’ve rarely seen from him. It’s some of the absolute best work of Hopkins’ lengthy and storied career.
And as his daughter, Anne, Olivia Colman is consistently his equal. She, too, must ride this roller coaster and struggle to put on a British, stiff upper lip within a situation that’s steadily crumbling. She’ll manage a smile as tears well in her eyes or flinch ever so slightly yet maintain her patience when her father says something rude and insulting. As our guide—as much as Zeller will allow us one—Colman is tremendous as always.