Knowing that this film’s release was coming in the past weeks was a very conflicting moment for me. The praise this film received alone by other critics was enough to make this a highly anticipated watch, but with things that have happened to me privately, it was also a film I was dreading to watch. Coming up to three months ago now, my grandmother passed away from health conditions that included dementia. As this film has the horrible effects of dementia at its heart, I was afraid it would be too personal to watch, I knew that the film would show things that I had seen from my own grandmother. I always set aside anything personal when watching films, but The Father made it more difficult than ever, you could say I entered this film as the harshest critic because I wanted the filmmakers to show respect to people who have had to deal with someone with dementia. There’s no other way I can put this, The Father is the most accurate portrayal of living with dementia I think I’ve ever seen.
The bulk of The Father’s praise has come from the performance from Anthony Hopkins in the lead role of Anthony, so this was a must cover for me. This was his first Best Actor win at the Academy Awards since his iconic Hannibal Lecter role and after seeing it for myself, there was no-one else the Academy could give it to because this is a remarkable performance. I was afraid to say what I’m about to say at first, but now, with a lot of confidence, I think Anthony Hopkins’ performance in The Father is better than his performance in Silence of the Lambs. This is a brutal, heart-breaking performance. There are many ways in which a person with dementia can act, aside from absolutely nailing the memory loss, there is also the personality shifts, the ability to find the right words, the confusion, you can find all these and more within Anthony Hopkins performance. This film is entirely in the perspective of Anthony the character, you are essentially inside his mind so the emotional connection you build with him is one of the main reasons why this film is so emotional.
Olivia Colman also stars in this film as Anthony’s daughter Anne. If you’ve known me for long enough, you will already know that Olivia Colman is my favourite female actors working and once again she is a tour de force in The Father. If you’ve ever had to care for someone with dementia, you will know that it is one of the most stressful and soul-crushing things you’ll ever have to do, and Olivia Colman’s performance absolutely encapsulates how tiring this act of unconditional kindness can be. You can see the exhaustion perfectly on her face.
This is another marvelous example of a story told within a single location, however I’m not sure if I can even call The Father a single location film because one of the most genius sides to this film is how the location is in constant flux. The story is situating in what Anthony believes to be his flat, but throughout the film the flat will constantly change both in small and big ways. Whenever I get the courage to, I’ll probably have to see this film again because if you’re someone who loves to recognise the little details, this is the film to see. The rooms in the flat change but the layout stays the same, like furniture changes style or the colour of the walls change. Sometimes the location ceases on being a flat and changes to a hospital waiting room.
All of these things are just a small piece of the larger picture that is the writing is simply astounding. As previously mentioned, the film is seen entirely from Anthony’s perspective, you see what he sees. So because of the character’s dementia, there is a chain of events, but not in the correct order. For instance, early in the film, Anne says she’s moving to live in Paris, but in exactly the next scene when Anthony brings it up to her “husband” Paul (Mark Gatiss or Rufus Sewell), he’s never heard about it. There are a lot of scenes that play out like this with different pieces of information. Some scene even repeats themselves or even loop. There is a fantastic scene that does this that involves Anthony having chicken for dinner. You see him enter the room after hearing Anne and Paul argue about what to do with him, he has his dinner but goes into the kitchen to get more chicken, you’re then left with Anne and Paul, and it will suddenly dawn on you that you’re watching the same conversation play out with Anthony stumbling upon them in the same way. Within the context of the film, this is frighteningly accurate.
Although with this being said, to those who can only follow a point A to B narrative, The Father is a nightmare film. Now this shouldn’t be a bad thing to many people, I would be surprised by the film is the story wasn’t like this. This isn’t a film trying to spread awareness, it does that already, but having a confusing narrative is kind of the point of getting into Anthony’s mind and seeing his world how he sees it. Of course, there will be members of an audience who just won’t be able to follow the film at all, but that’s OK because they will be able to sympathise with the characters anyway.
It was very painful to watch this film and for many the story is guaranteed to upset. For some, including myself, some of the scene may feel a bit too real, but in a way, The Father is also a catharsis film. Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman have perfectly brought all the little emotions that come attached to dealing with dementia to life with brilliant accuracy, the nature of dementia is woven into the pages of the script and the practical techniques used to bring the symptoms to life is a touch of genius. There have been very few times where I’ve actually been glued to my seats long after the credits were finished, it’s an indication to me that a films emotional powerlifting works. The Father undoubtedly works.
Final Result: 10/10 – Masterpiece
Have you seen The Father? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: In The Heights/Monster Hunter