Film Review – The Father
When you think of things that may cripple your mind and body towards the end of your life, what is the thing that scares you the most? Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are at the top of my list. There is something about your body being still whole, but you slowly lose your mind, what makes you you. There are some films out there that feature what happens when you take care of a family member with memory loss and what happens in the aftermath of diagnosis. However, I have never seen a film reveal in detail what it might be like for the affected as their mind fails them.
The Father centers on Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an older man dealing with memory loss, possibly Alzheimer’s disease, but his diagnosis is never revealed. He lives in a posh flat in London, and his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) drops in on him to make sure he is doing okay. His carer recently quit because of Anthony’s antics and accusations, so he is on his own. Anne tries to reason with him that he needs help and does not feel comfortable leaving him alone anymore. She then reveals that she is moving to Paris to live with her boyfriend, making regular check-ins with her father impossible. The story progresses from there; inconsistencies and a mixture of family members and carers illustrate just how bad off Anthony really is.
Because of Anthony’s memory loss and how it twists his mind, his posh flat’s production design is a character in and of itself. While there is nothing, in the beginning, to note that maybe you should be paying attention to the details (paintings, furnishings, bedding), it becomes clear that things are not the same in every iteration of Anthony’s mind. A missing painting and the assuredness that there was one there can set off Anthony into often debilitating confusion, not knowing if something was there before or not. Confusion leads to panic and then anger. There is no indication that he feels stifled or constricted in this flat, but his long gazes to the outside world from his window inform the audience that he isn’t as free and well as he states to his daughter.
Without a doubt, Anthony Hopkins is one of the greatest actors alive, and his performance in The Father is not an exception. It is only through his honest portrayal that we grasp the difficulties of someone in this state. As stated previously, this film can be singled out for giving us a forgotten perspective of what a person experiencing later stages of dementia may be like for them. Hopkins perfectly illustrates the flow of emotions from one moment to the next. He thinks he’s got it all straight in his head until an element that does not seem right throws his train of thought. To us, he sounds and acts perfectly fine in the beginning, but with the addition of Anne and others to the mix, we see that this world he exists in is not what it seems to him.
The Father is a drama, a film that strives to faithfully illustrate what it might be like on the other side of dementia. However, there is a sense of dread that this might happen to you one day or one of your loved ones, and it borders on being a horror film. Too many in the horror genre have a victim trapped in someplace with no escape. What if you woke up one day and couldn’t recognize your mother or father? The thing that makes it all so much more terrifying is that it’s happening all in his head; he has (or rather his disease) created this reality. His brain is befuddled and mixed up in both time and place. There is nothing more terrifying than the possibility of ending up like Anthony, more so if you have no relatives to care for you. The Father created a masterclass in acting and a stark reality full of terrors.