In Brief: The Father is an uncomfortable, but not to be missed, look at the pain of dementia from all sides.
The Father is an intense — and difficult — look into what it must be like to have dementia. It also amplifies the pain experienced by a loved one as they watch someone they love slowly cease to be that person.
Anthony Hopkins plays an old man living with his daughter. Or is she living with him. You’re never really sure. Sometimes she’s Olivia Colman’s Anne and at other times she’s a woman played by Olivia Williams. You’re sure which one is the daughter but he isn’t.
He likes a possible caretaker. They click immediately. The next time they meet she’s not close to the person he thinks he met. All of this is a big problem for Anne. And for the husband who might, or might not, be a part of her life.
Men live in the flat. Two of them. One is Anne’s husband and the other isn’t — or is he?
Hopkins’ performance is mind-blowing. The man is slowly losing his mind. And he’s doing it a piece at a time; a memory at a time. In a most convincing — and frightening manner — Hopkins shows you how the man isn’t sure about things, the people in his life, and where he lives. Sometimes it’s day to day. At other times it is minute-to-minute.
Hopkins shows how someone with dementia finds it difficult to hang onto reality. He plays it patiently at first. Then he brilliantly bounces between confused and angry and then anxious and hopeless.
Colman’s (Oscar and Golden Globes for The Favourite) work matches Hopkins’ and perfectly captures the pain of a woman losing the man who has been most important to her life, and who gave her life, and who hopes against hope that he’ll somehow recover.
She knows he won’t. To Anne her father’s confusion is like staring into an abyss. There is no solution. The void is unending.
Anne also has a life and it’s one she needs to live. Tough choices must be made. They’re ones people make everyday and they’re painful, awful choices.
That’s the beauty — if you can call it that — of writer/director, Florian Zeller’s movie. He not only shows how difficult it is for the loved ones but he puts you in the head of a person with dementia.
The ability to give you that perspective is impressive. It’s also depressing. Very.
The movie is based on Zeller’s stage play. There is something magical when a play is turned into a movie and it is done right. An important line will end a scene, a character will stop and while they’re frozen in place, Zeller has the movie fade to black.
Sometimes you feel like the scenes were done in one take, or that the actors did the movie in three acts and 90-minutes.
Though it’s amazing work, The Father probably isn’t for everyone. It’s a total downer. However, if you love great acting, even better writing and a movie that gives you a glimpse of what it’s like to be afflicted with dementia, do see this one.
By the way, “The Father picked up four Golden Globe nominations and on Monday morning when the Oscar nominations are made it’ll likely pick up four of them. Hopkins and Colman are shoo-ins for best actor and best supporting actress nods. Look for Zeller to get a best director nomination, and for he and screenplay writer Christopher Hampton to get adapted screenplay nominations.
The movie is that good.
Director: Florian Zeller
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Rufus Sewell, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Ayesha Dharker, Roman Zeller
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. This one is tough to watch. It’s an incredibly good picture of what it’s like to have dementia and what it’s like for the daughter who loves and has to take care of him and still struggles with keeping a life of her own. Brilliant writing punctuates this one. Give it a 4 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
You can find The Father in some Portland area theaters and in theaters that are open around the state and nation.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.