Today’s analysis is from the film The Father (Florian Zeller, 2020) featuring Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman and Imogen Poots. Here’s my take on the scene —which is just one way to look at it.

The Father Screenplay

You can watch the script to screen of the scene here and see the little changes made to the screenplay:

If you’d like to read the script, DEADLINE has made it available here (maybe it’ll disappear soon): The Father Final Script

Also you can watch it here with an interview with Florian Zeller, Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins: THE FATHER | Scene at The Academy

Film Synopsis

In The Father A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality (IMDB).

Scene Analysis of The Father

  • Scene Purpose: Anne introduces his father Anthony to his new carer Laura.
  • Scene Subtextual Purpose: Anthony shows his “serious and sombre” self as he feels manipulated and unloved by his daughter Anne.

Plot Points

Firstly, let’s divide the scene as the Classical Structure determines —Beginning, Middle and End— including its turning points:

  • Beginning: Anne introduces Laura (the new carer) to her father Anthony.
    • TURN: Anthony shows his charming face to Laura. A warning from Anne:
      • Laura: “I must say he’s charming.”
      • Anne: “Yes… Not always.”
  • Middle I: Anthony and Laura are getting on well and he even performs “his tap dancing skills” for Laura. We know thanks to Anne that he was in fact an engineer.
    • TURN: Anthony suddenly becomes serious and sombre, as if he’d been playing a part all along.
  • Middle II: Anthony gives a speech about how he’s “aware” of the situation, his daughter is trying to “dump off” on him another carer.
    • TURN: He hurts his daughter with his words “I’m going to outlive you (…) The day of her funeral, I shall give a little speech to remind everyone how heartless and manipulative she was.”
  • End: Anthony leaves the room and Laura tries to cheer Anne up.

Anthony’s Dimensionality

The division is clear (two dimensions) in which we see Anthony’s two faces (notice how I use spheres to show the revelations during the scene):

Levels of Conflict in The Father

There’s a lot of underlying tension in this scene. To reach the maximum level of conflict in Anthony’s full of rage speech to her daughter, first we need to be aware of the different layers:

  1. Anne and Laura try to hide Laura’s profession to Anthony so he doesn’t feel bad, but as the scene progresses we see Anthony is well aware of it
  2. Anthony’s dementia: he thinks that he’s in his flat, that Lucy’s still alive, that he was a tap dancer, . . . counteracted by luminous moments where he truly remembers things about his wife, Anne’s sobriety, the painting.
  3. We know Lucy is dead because of Anne’s expressions. Furthermore, there’s a daughters rivalry going on in the film: Lucy was Anthony’s favourite and Anne doesn’t feel she’s prepares to take good care of her father.

The Importance of the Scene, screenplaywise…

What really strikes me is the twist the screenwriters give to the tool often used in screenplays ending the scene with a question. In the script’s final version here’s what happens:

At the beginning, in the final draft, Laura doesn’t answer the question leaving the audience and Anne disconsolate. But, I imagine Florian Zeller thought about what would truly happen: the carer would give hope to a tearful Anne. Plus, we feel that Anthony’s illness can improve preparing us for the end of the film. So he changed it! And you should know that the sentence “It will be all right” is a constant during the film, even in the last scene.

Moreover, something important in the process of learning screenwriting is being aware that these kind of changes can and should happen.

Finally, this scene in particular gives us a clue about what the WATCH in Anthony’s wrist means. He says “I’ve always had two. One on my wrist and the other in my head. It’s always been that way.” It express how Anthony’s dementia is getting worse as he ages, as times goes by. Moreover, it is perhaps the only certainty he has as we see what he thinks about it in the ending scene of the film.