Review: ‘Freud’s Last Session,’ starring Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode

December 21, 2023

by Carla Hay

Matthew Goode and Anthony Hopkins in “Freud’s Last Session” (Photo by Sabrina Lantos/Sony Pictures Classics)

“Freud’s Last Session”

Directed by Matthew Brown

Some language in German with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1939 in London (with some flashbacks to previous decades), the dramatic film “Freud’s Last Session” (based on the play of the same name) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: In this fictional story, world-renowned Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (an atheist) has a meeting with British writer C.S. Lewis (a religious Christian), as they debate about religion and reminisce about their lives. 

Culture Audience: “Freud’s Last Session” will appeal primarily to fans of Sigmund Freud, C.S. Lewis and star Anthony Hopkins, but the movie gets bogged down by too many dull scenes that veer far away from the story’s basic premise.

Liv Lisa Fries in “Freud’s Last Session” (Photo by Patrick Redmond/Sony Pictures Classics)

In basic Freudian terms, “Freud’s Last Session” is a lot of id in need of more superego. The movie is full of potential that needed much better guidance. This well-meaning drama about a meeting between atheist Sigmund Freud and religious C.S. Lewis starts with the right concept, but it ultimately goes off the rails with too many flashbacks and subplots.

Directed by Matthew Brown, “Freud’s Last Session” is based on Mark. St. Germain’s play of the same name. St. Germain and Brown and co-wrote the adapted screenplay for “Freud’s Last Session,” which takes primarily place in London, in 1939. “Freud’s Last Session” had its world premiere at the 2023 edition of AFI Fest.

“Freud’s Last Session” begins on September 3, 1939: two days after Nazi German forces have invaded Poland. It’s also the same day that the United Kingdom joined the Allied Forces in World War II. It’s on this particular day that Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (played by Anthony Hopkins) and British writer C.S. Lewis, nicknamed Jack (played by Matthew Goode), have a meeting that is fabricated for this story.

The meeting place is at Sigmund’s home office. Sigmund’s wife is away visiting a cousin, but Sigmund is being looked after by his overly attentive daughter Anna Freud (played by Liv Lisa Fries) and a housekeeper. Sigmund is on the verge of retiring. He also has a secret habit of spiking his drinks with morphine.

Viewers should expect Sigmund and Frank to have some debates about religion and whether or not God exists. And although these debates are somewhat lively, the movie turns into a mushy series of flashbacks where the two men talk about their childhoods and other aspects of their pasts. The movie gives very little insight to the talent that Jack/C.S. has as a writer. Jack/C.S. mentions his friend JRR Tolkien (played by Stephen Campbell Moore), who makes a brief appearance in them movie.

Jack has some trauma because he’s a military veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s also still emotionally damaged from feeling abandoned and neglected by his widower father, who sent Jack and his older brother Warren (played by Pádraic Delaney) away to boarding school. (Oscar Massey portrays C.S. Lewis at age 9, and Lucas Massey portrays Warren Lewis at age 12.)

Meanwhile, the movie goes off on a tangent about Freud noticing but being somewhat in denial that Anna is a lesbian or queer. Anna’s lover is a colleague named Dorothy Burlingham (played by Jodi Balfour), who works at the same university where Anna is a professor of psychology. Anna’s personal drama gets too much screen time in the movie.

Although the acting performances in “Freud’s Last Session” are good enough, the dialogue is often tedious. A movie about perhaps the world’s most famous psychiatrist fails to delve very far into his psyche (or anyone else’s psyche, for that matter) to offer a fascinating story. And that’s a flaw in this movie that’s too big to overlook.

Sony Pictures Classics will release “Freud’s Last Session” in select U.S. cinemas on December 22, 2023.

Review: ‘The Son’ (2022), starring Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath and Anthony Hopkins

December 10, 2022

by Carla Hay

Zen McGrath, Laura Dern and Hugh Jackman in “The Son” (Photo by Rekha Garton/See-Saw Films/Sony Pictures Classics)

“The Son” (2022)

Directed by Florian Zeller

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in New York City and briefly in Washington, D.C., the dramatic film “The Son” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A workaholic corporate lawyer, his ex-wife and his current wife struggle with understanding the depression of his 17-year-old son from his first marriage. 

Culture Audience: “The Son” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s stars and don’t mind watching movies about mental illness that awkwardly handle this serious subject matter.

Hugh Jackman and Vanessa Kirby in “The Son” (Photo by Rob Youngson/See-Saw Films/Sony Pictures Classics)

A talented cast can’t save “The Son,” a sloppily edited drama that mishandles issues about mental illness in a turgid and manipulative way. This is writer/director Florian Zeller’s sophomore slump as a feature filmmaker. Zeller triumphed with his feature-film directorial debut “The Father,” his stellar 2020 drama for which he and co-writer Christopher Hampton won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. “The Father,” which is based on Zeller’s play of the same name, is a story told from the perspective of an elderly British man who has dementia. Anthony Hopkins portrayed the person with dementia in the “The Father,” and Hopkins won an Oscar for Best Actor for this performance.

Zeller brought Hopkins in for a short scene (which lasts less than 10 minutes) in “The Son,” and this scene is one of the highlights of this very uneven and ultimately disappointing movie. “The Father” and “The Son” are not similar to each other all, except for the fact that both movies are based on Zeller’s stage plays of the same names, and both movies are about families coping with a loved one who has a mental illness. The title character in each movie is the one dealing with the mental health issues.

Zeller and Hampton teamed up again to co-write “The Son” screenplay. “The Son” had its world premiere at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival. It also made the rounds at several other film festivals in 2022, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival and AFI Fest in Los Angeles. Being at these high-profile festivals might seem like the “The Son” is a “prestige picture,” but it’s more indicative of the movie’s star power than the quality of the film. “The Son’s” clumsy treatment of a complicated issues such as depression is a lot like what you would see on a TV-movie made for a basic cable network.

“The Son” covers a well-worn topic that’s been the subject of numerous movies and TV shows: A workaholic father’s absence from home ends up causing resentment from some of his family members, and he might spend the rest of the story trying to mend any broken relationships caused by his lack of attention to his family. Arguments, grudges and sometimes physical altercations then happen. And then, depending on how predictable the story wants to be, a truce is usually called and people go on a path toward healing.

“The Father” was told from the perspective of the title character, but “The Son” is not told from the perspective of the title character. Instead, “The Son” puts most of its efforts in showing the thoughts and feelings of the son’s father. Up until a certain point in the movie, “The Son” is a formulaic story of a family damaged by divorce and not knowing how to deal with mental illness. But perhaps in a misguided effort to not have a typical ending, “The Son” does something so off-putting in the film’s last 15 minutes, it essentially ruins the movie.

In “The Son,” Peter Miller (played by Hugh Jackman) is an ambitious attorney who works at a corporate firm in New York City. Viewers will soon see that Peter (who is in his 50s) is highly motivated to succeed, and he expects excellence from himself and everyone around him. Peter lives in an upscale New York City apartment with his second wife Beth (played by Vanessa Kirby), who’s about 20 years younger than Peter. Beth and Peter, who’ve been married for less than two years, are parents of an infant son named Theo (played by twins Felix Goddard and Max Goddard).

Conversations in the movie reveal that Beth and Peter had an affair while he was still married to his first wife Kate (played by Laura Dern), who was devastated when Peter left Kate to be with Beth. Peter and Beth met (ironically enough) at a wedding, and Beth knew from the beginning that Peter was married. Peter and Kate have a 17-year-old son named Nicholas (played by Zen McGrath), who is also emotionally wounded from his parents’ divorce. Kate has full custody of Nicholas, who lives with her in New York City.

Peter will soon find out how much Nicholas has resentment toward him and how depressed Nicholas is. It starts with a worried phone call from Kate, who tells Peter that she recently found out that Nicholas stopped going to school for almost a month. Nicholas pretended to her that he was going to school, but he was actually just spending time walking around the city, according to what he confesses later. When the school tried to contact Kate by phone and by email about Nicholas’ absence, Nicholas was able to intercept those messages until the truth came out.

Kate also tells Peter that she and Nicholas no longer get along with each other. “He’s not well,” Kate insists. Kate also ominously hints to Peter that Nicholas could be dangerous. She describes how Nicholas once looked at her with so much hatred, she thought he might physically hurt her. “He scares me, okay?” Kate says to Peter about Nicholas.

It’s reached a point where Kate (who feels helpless and confused) has reluctantly agreed to Nicholas’ request to live with Peter for the time being. Nicholas tells Peter why he wants to live with him when he describes how he fells about living with Kate: “When I’m here, I get too many dark ideas. I want to live with my little brother. Sometimes, I feel like I’m going crazy.”

Peter’s way of handling Nicholas’ problems is to try to find a logical solution. Peter tries to be understanding, but he often talks to Nicholas like a prosecutor interrogating a defense witness in court. At this point, Peter isn’t fully aware that Nicholas has a mental illness. Peter thinks Nicholas is just being a rebellious brat.

In one of the movie’s several emotionally charged conversations, Peter demands that Nicholas tell him what’s wrong. On the verge of tears, Nicholas tries to explain to Peter why he’s been skipping school: “I don’t know how to describe it. It’s life. It’s weighing me down.”

Peter tells Beth what’s going on with Nicholas and asks her if it will be okay if Nicholas lives with them for a while, even though it’s obvious that Peter has made up his mind that Nicholas will live with them. Kate and Peter also agree that Nicholas (a loner who has difficulty making friends) can transfer to another school. What they don’t do is try to get him into therapy. Peter is the type of person who thinks the family can solve this problem on their own.

At first, Beth is reluctant to have this troubled teen living with them when she’s already busy taking care of a newborn child. However, Beth agrees to let Nicholas live with them (they have an extra bedroom that Nicholas will have to himself) because she sees how much Peter wants to help Nicholas, and she doesn’t want to interfere in this father-son relationship. Beth has only known Nicholas for two years, so she feels she doesn’t have the right to make parental decisions about him.

The rest of “The Son” is a back-and-forth repetition of Nicholas seeming to improve while living with Peter and Beth, but then something happens to show that Nicholas is not doing very well at all. Eventually, Peter finds out that Nicholas self-harms by cutting himself. Peter and Kate go through various stages of denial, guilt, sadness and anger, while Beth has her guard up and doesn’t really want to deal with the family problems when they get too intense. Beth also has stepparent insecurities about how much a spouse cares about any children from a previous marriage, compared to how much the spouse cares about any children from the current marriage.

“The Son” has a not-very-interesting subplot about Peter getting a job offer to work for a U.S. senator from Delaware named Brian Hammer (played by Joseph Mydell), who wants to hire Peter for Senator Hammer’s re-election campaign. The job would require Peter to spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C., so Peter has to decide whether or not to take the job in the midst of all of his family problems. “The Son” uses this subplot as a way try to create some suspense over whether not Peter will accept this job offer. This decision isn’t as suspenseful as the movie wants it to be.

The Washington, D.C., area is also where Peter’s unnamed widower father (played by Hopkins) lives, so there’s a gripping scene where Peter visits his father while Peter is in the area to meet with Senator Hammer. It’s in this scene where viewers find out more about Peter’s family background and why Peter has the parenting style that he does. Even though Peter doesn’t want to admit it, he’s a lot like his father, when it comes to letting work get in the way of spending quality time with his family.

But unlike Peter, his father is cold, cruel and unapologetic for making work a higher priority than his family. Peter tells his father that Nicholas is now living with Peter, and this new living arrangement seems to be helping Nicholas with Nicholas’ problems. Instead of being concerned or empathetic about Nicholas, Peter’s father accuses Peter of telling him this information to make Peter look like a better father.

Peter denies it, of course. This unfair and paranoid accusation stirs up some deep-seated resentments, and Peter reminds his father how selfish he was not to visit Peter’s mother when she was dying in the hospital. Peter’s father responds this way: “Just fucking get over it.” Even though Hopkins has a standout scene in “The Son,” too many other scenes in the film are mired in predictability.

“The Son” puts so much emphasis on Peter, he’s the only main character who gets a backstory. The movie reveals nothing about the backgrounds of Kate and Beth, even though Kate has been Nicholas’ primary caretaking parent after the divorce, up until Nicholas began living with Peter and Beth. Viewers will never find out how Kate’s own upbringing affected her parenting skills.

The movie also gives no information about Nicholas’ background to indicate how long he’s been having these feelings of depression. Several times in the movie, Nicholas tells Peter that he blames Peter’s abandonment and the divorce for feeling depressed, but it all seems too convenient and intended to put Peter on a guilt trip. If Peter had been too busy with work to notice Nicholas’ problems, then what indications did Kate see? Don’t expect the movie to answer that question.

Instead, the most that viewers will see about Nicholas before he moved in with Peter are several cutesy flashbacks of a 6-year-old Nicholas (played by George Cobell) in happier times during a vacation that he took with his parents in Corsica. “The Son” keeps showing flashbacks of this family of three taking a trip on a small boat, and Peter teaching an adorable Nicholas how to swim in the sea. These superficial flashbacks are examples of lazy storytelling that doesn’t give viewers a chance to get to know Nicholas as a well-rounded person.

“The Son” gives no information about what Nicholas’ personality was like a few years before the divorce. It’s possible that he had depression when his parents were still married, but that information is never revealed or discussed in the movie. “The Son” brings up a lot of questions about Nicholas that the movie never answers. It’s a huge misstep in how this movie portrays its title character.

Considering these limitations, McGrath gives a compelling but not outstanding performance as Nicholas. A few times in the movie, Nicholas is described as looking “evil,” but the expression on his face just looks like he’s pouting and glaring like a spoiled child who didn’t get his way. People with enough life experience can see that Nicholas has depression problems, but he’s also very manipulative, and he knows how to make his parents (especially Peter) feel guilty about the divorce.

As for the other principal cast members, Dern gives an authentic performance for her underdeveloped Kate character when expressing the anguish of a parent who goes through what Kate goes through in the movie. Kirby gives some depth to what is essentially a “trophy wife” role, but so little is known about Beth, there’s only so much that Kirby can do with this often-aloof character. Beth also complains to Peter about how he spends more time at work than at home, which kind of makes her look like a ditz that she didn’t know he was a workaholic when she married him.

Ultimately, “The Son” comes across as a showboat movie for Jackman, because it spends so much time showing Peter’s life outside the home, as well as Peter’s feelings about his own “daddy issues.” Peter is supposed to be American, but Jackman’s native Australian accent can sometimes be heard in his performance of Peter, especially in scenes where Peter is shouting or arguing with someone. Jackman certainly delivers a heartfelt performance, but a lot of it seems overly calculated too, much like how the movie handles the most sensitive scenes.

Unfortunately, “The Son” has much bigger problems than actors trying too hard to be noticed in obvious “awards bait” roles. The movie’s editing is haphazard and sometimes baffling. For example, there’s a scene that’s interrupted by a five-second flashback of Peter and 6-year-old Nicholas frolicking in the water on that vacation. This brief flashback is so random and out-of-place, it makes you wonder why Zeller made such amateurish editing decisions for “The Son” when “The Father” was so brilliantly edited.

The last 15 minutes of “The Son” are what will really turn off viewers the most. The way the story ends is gimmicky and could easily be interpreted as crass exploitation, for the sake of having a “surprise” plot twist. If “The Son” intended to be respectful of people who deal with the same issues as the ones portrayed in this substandard movie, then “The Son” torpedoed any good will by conjuring up a truly awful ending that cannot be redeemed.

Sony Pictures Classics released “The Son” in select U.S. cinemas on November 25, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on December 16, 2022, and on January 20, 2023.

Review: ‘The Virtuoso’ (2021), starring Anson Mount, Abbie Cornish and Anthony Hopkins

May 25, 2021

by Carla Hay

Anson Mount in “The Virtuoso” (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Lionsgate)

“The Virtuoso” (2021)

Directed by Nick Stagliano

Culture Representation: Taking place in Ohio and unnamed parts of the United States, the crime drama “The Virtuoso” features an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: An assassin finds out one of his hit jobs might be his most dangerous assignment when he has problems finding his murder target.

Culture Audience: “The Virtuoso” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching badly written and tedious movies about assassinations.

Anthony Hopkins in “The Virtuoso” (Photo by Lance Skundrich/Lionsgate)

The first clue that “The Virtuoso” will be an annoying, witless bore is within the first five minutes, when the main character starts droning on in voiceover narration about what’s happening on screen. It’s never a good sign when movies over-explain things that don’t need to be explained, but it’s even worse when the explaining is for things that don’t even make sense and no amount of explaining will help. The lead character is supposed to be an expert assassin, who thinks so highly of himself that he calls himself a “virtuoso,” but he makes so many dumb mistakes, viewers will be left with the impression that this drama is really an unintentionally bad comedy.

However, there’s nothing really funny about “The Virtuoso,” unless you consider it a cruel joke that Oscar-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins ended up in this bottom-of-the barrel dud. Viewers will be more intrigued by speculating how Hopkins found himself in this embarrassing mess of a movie than intrigued by the dull, so-called mystery that’s supposed to be the film’s main plot. “The Virtuoso” director Nick Stagliano (who co-wrote the movie’s atrocious screenplay with James Wolf) was extremely lucky to get a talented actor on the caliber of Hopkins to be in this forgettable garbage.

“The Virtuoso” is one of those pretentiously conceived films where all of the main characters are supposed to be so mysterious that they don’t have any names. The movie’s locations are mostly unnamed, but “The Virtuoso” was actually filmed in New York and Pennsylvania. Anson Mount is the lead character, a loner assassin who is seen doing a hit job in the movie’s opening scene. This character is credited as The Virtuoso in the movie’s end credits, but he’s such an idiotic bungler, that calling him a “virtuoso” is too generous.

In the movie’s opening scene, the assassin is staked out in a hotel room, where he shoots a middle-aged man in another hotel room across the street. And just to make this movie look “edgy” (when it’s actually very unimaginative), the shooting takes place while the targeted man (played by Blaise Corrigan) is having sex with a much younger woman (played by Estelle Girard Parks), who is not his wife. In this hit job, the assassin is so precise in his shooting that he is able to shoot off several bullets at his target, starting with the groin area, without any bullets hitting the woman.

She screams in terror and then quickly leaves the room, but not before robbing the dead guy of whatever cash was in his wallet. She doesn’t call for help because she knows that the murdered man is the type of person who wouldn’t want the cops around. And she doesn’t want to stick around to answer any questions.

In a voiceover, the assassin predicts all of these actions because he knows exactly who was in that room when he did the hit job. He also predicts how long it will take before the police arrive, so he can make his getaway. What he doesn’t explain is how he had the good luck of the murder victim having his hotel window curtains wide open so the assassin could clearly see where to shoot in the room.

Get used to this assassin over-explaining every single thing he does, as if he’s dictating an instruction manual called “Assassinations for Dummies,” because this constant narration plagues almost the entire movie. Here’s a sample of what he says in voiceover narration about this particular hit job: “With this employer, you rarely get more than a name—sometimes not even that. It adds to the risk, and it adds to the fear.”

When he calmly walks out of his hotel room after murdering his target, the assassin continues to drone on about how to be a top assassin: “It’s vital that you show no urgency. You trust your planning, your accuracy. You’re a professional, an expert devoted to timing and precision—a virtuoso.”

The assassin lives with his dog in a remote, unnamed wooded area, because as he over-explains in the narration, a “virtuoso” assassin is supposed “live off the grid as much as possible.” He get his mail by renting a box at an independent, privately owned mail service, not the U.S. Postal Service. And he never uses his real name.

The assassin has a mentor (played by Hopkins), who oversees the hit jobs that the assassin does. The next assignment that the assassin has is to murder a corrupt CEO, who was indicted on an unnamed charge, but the indictment was recently dropped by a judge. The assassin travels to Ohio to complete this mission.

It’s another murder where he shoots at his target from a nearby building. This time, the scene of the murder is on a street that looks like it’s in a business district of the city. And the target gets shot while driving in his car, which crashes into a reacreational vehicle camper that’s parked on the street. The CEO’s car and the camper explode. And something happens that the assassin could not predict: A woman, who was an innocent bystander, happened to be standing on a sidewalk next to the camper when it exploded, so she caught on fire and died.

The assassin makes a hasty exit back to his remote home. And because he prides himself on not killing innocent victims, this mistake has left him shaken to the core. He screams out in emotional pain and guilt. Although this screaming scene is supposed to be serious, it’s done in such an over-the-top way that viewers might laugh when they see it. Throughout the movie, the assassin has guilt-ridden flashbacks and nightmares of seeing the woman screaming in agony while engulfed in flames.

Viewers will find out a little bit more about the assassin and his mentor in a scene that takes place in a graveyard during the day. The assassin is there to visit the grave of his father. And then, the mentor suddenly shows up unannounced, almost as if he had been following the assassin (or hired someone to follow him), so he knew exactly where his protégé would be at that exact moment. The mentor has followed the assassin there because the assassin hasn’t been answering the mentor’s phone calls.

During their conversation, it’s mentioned that the assassin, his late father and the mentor all served in the military. The assassin’s father and the mentor were soldiers together during the Vietnam War. And in the movie’s best and most harrowing scene, the mentor delivers a monologue that only a few actors such as Hopkins would be able to deliver with credibility and gravitas. The monologue describes in vivid and horrific details a Vietnam War experience that the mentor had with the assassin’s father, when they were ordered to massacre all the people and animals in a Vietnam village, and what happened to a toddler boy who tried to escape.

The assassin’s mentor gives this monologue as a way to tell the assassin to “get over it” when the assassin seems to be mentally cracking under the guilt of accidentally killing an innocent bystander during a hit job. The mentor says that the dead bystander was just “collateral damage,” and that when these things happen, assassins just need to be professional and move on. “We humans are homicidal killing machines,” the mentor coldly tells the assassin. Privately, the assassin vows to himself to never allow this mistake to happen to him again.

And that’s why the assassin’s next assignment exposes the idiocy of this story. He takes an assignment where he doesn’t really know who his target is except that it’s someone whose identity is somehow connected to the words “white rivers.” Knowing full well that he could kill the wrong person due to mistaken identity, the assassin takes the assignment anyway.

The rest of the movie is a silly slog of the assassin going to a small town, where he encounters people who might or might now know who his target is, and one of them might be the actual target. All of the possible targets are people who spend time at a local diner called Rosie’s Cafe. They include:

  • A cop named Deputy Myers (played by David Morse), who’s immediately suspicious of the assassin when he sees him in the diner.
  • A waitress who calls herself Dixy (played by Abbie Cornish), who works at Rosie’s Cafe.
  • A sleazeball named Handsome Johnnie (played by Richard Brake), who has a criminal record and a gun.
  • A timid woman (played by Diora Baird), who is Handsome Johnnie’s new girlfriend.
  • A quiet loner (played by Eddie Marsan), who carries a gun with him.

And so, in this empty-headed story, the assassin who’s supposed to be as discreet and undercover as possible, shows up and starts asking people if they know anything about “white rivers.” He might as well have just worn a sign that said, “I’m a Stupid Assassin and I’m Here to Let People Know I’m Looking for My Target With My Biggest Clue About My Target’s Identity.” He acts more like a bumbling detective than a “virtuoso” assassin. What was that lecture he was saying in the beginning of the movie about “planning” and “accuracy”? Pure crap.

And since this is a small town, and the assassin hangs out at the diner acting like he’s looking for someone, it doesn’t take long before the word gets out that this stranger is probably up to no good. Needless to say, “The Virtuoso” is so sloppily written that the assassin’s process of elimination in figuring out the identity of his target makes absolutely no sense and contradicts the vow that he made to himself about not killing the wrong people.

“The Virtuoso” tries very hard to be like a neo-noir thriller, but the washed-out and dreary cinematography and monotonous editing just drag down this already sluggishly paced and nonsensical film. Fortunately for Hopkins, his screen time in “The Virtuoso” is no more than 20 minutes. His graveyard monologue really is the best thing about this terrible film. The rest of the cast members are serviceable in their roles. However, even the best acting in the world couldn’t save this very clumsy and vapid movie.

And because “The Virtuoso” recycles as many tired stereotypes as possible, the waitress and the assassin find themselves attracted to each other. Too bad Mount and Cornish have very little believable chemistry together. And since “The Virtuoso” is a very “male gaze” movie, only the women have nudity in the sex scenes. The only thing to say about the big “reveal” at the end is that it’s another very predictable cliché that’s a big yawn, assuming that any viewers who make it that far in this mind-numbing and plodding movie haven’t fallen asleep by then.

Lionsgate released “The Virtuoso” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on April 30, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on May 4, 2021.

Review: ‘The Father’ (2020), starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman

February 26, 2021

by Carla Hay

Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in “The Father” (Photo by Sean Gleason/Sony Pictures Classics)

“The Father” (2021) 

Directed by Florian Zeller

Culture Representation: Taking place in London, the dramatic film “The Father” features an almost-all white cast of characters (with one person of Indian heritage) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: An elderly man with dementia has problems determining what’s real and what isn’t, as his middle-aged daughter contemplates putting him in a nursing home.

Culture Audience: “The Father” will appeal primarily to people interested in high-quality dramas with excellent acting and a unique take on the issues of aging and mental deterioration.

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman in “The Father” (Photo by Sean Gleason/Sony Pictures Classics)

The well-acted dramatic film “The Father” is a different type of psychological horror story: The movie is told entirely from the perspective of an elderly man with dementia. Viewers are taken on a harrowing ride that feels like an endless loop of uncertainty and confusion, anchored by outstanding performances from Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman.

Directed by Florian Zeller (who co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Hampton), “The Father” is adapted from Zeller’s West End play. “The Father” movie, which is Zeller’s feature-film directorial debut, is designed very much like a theatrical stage production. Almost everything in the story takes place inside a building, and the movie is very heavy with dialogue.

But it’s not the type of performance piece that can be done by just any actors. This movie greatly benefits from having two remarkable leading actors who are also Academy Award winners. Hopkins gives the type of performance that is quietly devastating. Colman convincingly expresses the heartbreak of who someone who feels helpless to stop a loved one’s inevitable decline.

Even if viewers don’t know before seeing “The Father” that the story is from the point of view of someone who has dementia, this perspective is made clear very early on in the movie, which takes place in London. Hopkins portrays a retiree widower named Anthony, while Colman portrays his daughter Anne. Or is she really his daughter? Sometimes he doesn’t know who she is, and sometimes she tells him different stories about who she is.

Watching “The Father” is very much like putting pieces of a puzzle together where some of the pieces are missing, while other pieces aren’t meant to be there at all. There are scenarios that are repeated, and sometimes the same characters are portrayed by different actors. The intention is to make viewers feel as disoriented as Anthony feels.

What is consistent is that there is turmoil and indecision in Anthony’s family over what to do with him. Anne has grown frustrated because she’s having a difficult time finding a caregiver who will tolerate Anthony’s mercurial ways. He can be charming but also insulting. He can insist on being strong enough to take care of himself, but he can also show vulnerability and beg Anne not to abandon him.

The most recent caregiver whom Anne has hired is a young woman named Angela (played by Imogen Poots), who has her patience tested in taking care of Anthony. Simple tasks such as giving Anthony’s prescribed medication to him become lessons in jumping over mental minefields through his convoluted and erratic conversations. One minute Anthony tells Angela that he used to be a professional tap dancer and wants to show her some dance steps. The next minute Anne corrects him and says that Anthony was never a dancer and that he’s actually a retired engineer.

Anthony keeps telling Angela that she reminds him of his other daughter Lucy, whom he describes as a painter artist who doesn’t visit him as much as he’d like her to visit, because she’s always traveling. In front of Anne, Anthony also tells Angela that Lucy is his favorite child, as Anne’s eyes well up with tears. (One thing that’s clear is that Anthony doesn’t have any other children besides Anne and Lucy.) The real story about Lucy is eventually revealed, and it’s not much of a surprise.

Meanwhile, Anne’s husband Paul (played by Rufus Sewell) has grown increasingly frustrated with Anne’s insistence on having a caregiver for Anthony. Paul thinks that Anthony needs to be in a nursing home or some other institution where he can get 24-hour care. This disagreement has caused tension in their marriage, and Anthony notices it.

At certain parts of the story, depending on what you believe to be real, it’s explained that Anthony lived in his own apartment with a live-in caregiver. But the caregiver who preceded Angela abruptly left, so Anne decided to let Anthony temporarily stay with her and Paul until they could find a new caregiver for Anthony. Anne and Paul work outside their home on weekdays, so Anne has arranged for Angela to work until 6 p.m., when Anne is able to come home.

But then, in another scenario, Anne is divorced, has fallen in love with a man named Paul (who is never seen in the movie), and Paul lives in Paris. Anne breaks the bad news to Anthony that she will be moving to Paris, but she plans to visit Anthony on weekends on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Olivia Williams and Mark Gatiss portray two people who might or might not be in Anthony’s family.

Anthony has a fixation on his wristwatch, and it’s symbolic of his desperation to hang on to something from his past that he thinks is reliable. There are moments when he becomes enraged when he thinks that someone has stolen his watch. He has hiding places for his valuables that Anne might or might not know about when he inevitably tells her that something valuable of his is missing.

The last 15 minutes of “The Father” deliver an emotional wallop that lays bare the torturous nightmare of having dementia. The movie’s directing and screenplay are impressive, but the movie’s stellar casting and performances make it a superb movie that will leave a lasting impact on viewers.

Sony Pictures Classics released “The Father” in select U.S. cinemas on February 26, 2021, with expansions scheduled for more U.S. cinemas on March 12, 2021. The movie’s VOD release date is March 26, 2021. “The Father” was released in Spain on December 23, 2020, and had one-week theatrical run in Los Angeles in December 2020.

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