Tag Archives: anthony hopkins

Review: ‘The Son,’ Chronicles of Unhappiness

Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath, and Anthony Hopkins star in an agonizing drama.

By all appearances, it’s a tragedy in the making. 

Unhappy Nicholas (Zen McGrath) lives unhappily with his unhappy mother, Kate (Laura Dern), and wants very much to live with his happy father, Peter (Hugh Jackman), nevermind that Peter entered into an adulterous affair with happy Beth (Vanessa Kirby), thereby ruining his marriage and breaking up the household. Peter now lives happily with Beth and their newborn infant, but upon hearing Nicholas’ plea, he quickly caves, overruling Beth’s natural concerns. 

Very soon, everyone is unhappy. 

Two years ago, Anthony Hopkins starred in The Father, an adaptation of an acclaimed French-language play by novelist Florian Zellner that was then translated into English by Christopher Hampton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses). Hampton wrote the screen version, helmed by Zellner in his feature directorial debut, and I was very much impressed by the film, which staged the lead character’s splintering existence “as a horrifying reality.” I could relate to it on a personal level, too. 

The film raised my expectations for The Son, which is adapted from Zellner’s stage play of the same name, which, like The Father, was translated into English by Christopher Hampton and staged in London. (In between the stage versions of The Father and The Son, The Mother premiered, but that’s not yet been adapted.) The script for the screen version is credited to both Zellner and Hampton, with Zellner once again directing. 

Unlike The Father, though, The Son is a forthright melodrama, and suffers from any comparison. Its narrative proceeds, inexorably depicting the slow self-strangulation of a teenager who is not merely unhappy, but is clinically depressed. Unable and unwilling to address Nicholas’ serious mental-health issue, Peter continues on his merry, busy way, leaving Nicholas in the hands of Beth, who is consumed with caring for their newborn child, and is already stressed out herself. 

Acting more out of guilt over his adulterous affair, which clearly destabilized the unsteady Nicholas in the first place, Peter steadfastly pursues his own career goals, while throwing money at Nicholas and pretending that he has any idea how to raise or help him. He thinks he is acting differently than his own father did, but in truth, he is acting just as horribly, though perhaps in a more dignified manner. 

It’s agonizing to watch the slow decline in Nicholas, whose simmering anger and seething resentment gradually becomes manifest, mostly expressed against the long-suffering Beth, who is trapped at home, while Peter skips above the fray. With a self-confidence born of his upbringing and professional success, Peter thinks he knows how to “fix” Nicholas, yet in truth, he hasn’t a clue. 

The actors all bring their anguished characters to life, which only makes watching them all dance toward doom all the more difficult to watch. It’s like watching a slow-motion automobile accident, frame by frame, without being able to do a thing to stop it. 

What made The Father freshly disturbing to watch was that it developed empathy for its characters in an unexpected, cinematic fashion. What makes The Son difficult to watch is that it evinces no sympathy for its beleaguered characters, and does so in a profoundly straightforward fashion. 

The film opens Friday, January 20, in Dallas, Frisco, Fort Worth, Garland, Grapevine, and Plano via Sony Pictures Classics. Get tickets here. For more information about the film, visit the official site

Review: ‘The Father,’ Slow Horror

Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams star in a drama that resolves into a disturbing, yet empathetic portrait. 

Trapped in his own personal hell, without knowing it, Anthony is firmly resolved that he wants to remain in it. And he will fight anyone who suggests otherwise. 

Anthony’s day-to-day existence has fractured into a revolving jigsaw puzzle of people and events, jumbling constantly; he has lost track of what is real and what is imagined, and why are these strangers constantly coming into my home, and why does my daughter keep changing her identity, and where is my other daughter?

Giving a peerless performance, Anthony Hopkins captures the fear and frustration of a man who has accomplished good things in his working career. He has raised a daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman), who has supported him in a very kind manner. She is coming to realize, however, that her dear father’s diminishing capacities — due, perhaps, to Alzheimer’s Disease or, at least, the more common dementia — and consequent inability to get along with live-in caregivers, other than herself, means that she will soon need to choose between becoming a full-time caregiver or living her own life. 

Whatever she decides to do, Anthony’s state of mind strongly suggests that he is beyond the care of any one individual. My own dear father suffered from Alzheimer’s in his latter years, so the sometimes-harrowing events in the film feel very familiar to me, especially the continual confusion and frustration with his own inability to keep things straight. Anthony’s emotions appear to continually simmer, and more frequently than not, boil over into massive eruptions which he then promptly forgets, or minimizes. 

The source material is an acclaimed French-language play by Florian Zellner, which was first staged in 2012. Translated into English by Christopher Hampton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses), the play proceeded to gain wider acclaim after it was staged on London’s West End in 2015 and on Broadway in 2016. In his feature directorial debut, Zellner does a marvelously effective job, cinematically staging Anthony’s existence as a horrifying reality, seamlessly showing him waking into a living nightmares that he struggles to recognize. 

Colman is pitch-perfect through the varying moods she must suggest as she plays off Hopkins, who captures a tragic figure with great empathy. Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, and Imogen Poots play their supporting roles with authentic compassion and kindly precision. 

To say that The Father hits hard would be under-selling a film that is filled with finely-tuned, haunting dramatics. 

The film opens in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities on March 12, via Sony Pictures Classics. For more information about the film, visit the official site. 

Review: ‘Solace’

dfn-solace_ver8-300Counter programming in the holiday season is a necessary adjunct for studios to market and enjoy a small slice of profitability. Take, for example, the wider release of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land this weekend. All of you ticketgoers who didn’t act quickly enough to snag pre-sale Star Wars: Rogue One seats or those who get turned away at the box office window when it’s sold out this weekend can enjoy a couple-friendly (and critic approved) musical-drama that, in all likelihood, will be battling for an Oscar come February.

I’m not sure the same runoff crowds will drip into Afonso Poyart’s Solace. This telekinesis/serial-killer thriller is so relentlessly somber and uninspired that even the final act twist involving a well-known face rings hollow in the service of a script that needlessly shows us how smart it is while the actors on-screen seem to be holding back their own boredom. That’s not a good combination for either counter programming or “b” movie curiosity.

The one positive thing about Solace is Anthony Hopkins as John Clancy, the retired doctor-cum-foreseer enlisted by his old FBI pal Joe (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to help them catch a serial killer. With no specific correlation between victims besides the unobtrusive puncture wound at the base of the skull, Joe and partner Cowles (Abbie Cornish) reluctantly seek his outside help.

Saddled with a sob backstory and emitting only the stately presence we’re used to seeing from veteran actor Hopkins, he gives the film an anchor of reality, even if he happens to be someone who can see the future by simply brushing up against people or focusing on a multitude of possible outcomes by looking around the room. It’s preposterous, but he somehow sells the idea.

Less involving is the straightforward narrative of this incongruous stable of people tracking the highly elusive killer, prone to leaving taunting notes, such as the exact time they’ll walk into a murder scene or prerecording his own conversation to be projected onto a wall when the cops get too close. Only in movies such as this does the killer work so aggressively and precisely to chart and tease every move. It almost becomes exhaustive watching the intricate cat and mouse game established by a screenplay that overwrites every single action from motivation to three act structure.

Outside of the plot schematics, even more hurdles arise when Cowles, an intelligent FBI profiler herself, clashes with the metaphysical nature of Clancy’s abilities. Not only is their philosophical idea about the nature of criminals starkly different, but Clancy allows himself one good linguistic potshot just as their relationship begins. Their banter, early on, promises more than is delivered.

Replete with the usual red herrings, personal conflicts and sharp one-liners about a woman being sexier if she carries a gun, Poyart’s Solace never breaks from the mold of the grim precedents set by filmmakers decades ago, such as Alex Proyas or especially David Fincher. Set primarily at night, in driving rainstorms or in peeling and dilapidated housing tenements and freeway underpasses (in which the film’s most stirring set piece occurs), Solace is a largely unsuccessful thriller pieced together, both visually and thematically, from far superior efforts.

Still, it is good to see Hopkins back on screen. Relegating himself to smaller supporting roles in marginalized films (such as Misconduct with Al Pacino earlier this year), I guess he’s not really following up with his intention to retire, which makes cinema that much more alluring, even if he’s involved with something lackluster such as this.

Solace opens in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday, December 16 at the AMC Mesquite 30 Imax.