I would like to start with something a little more personal. Over the last few years, I have personally been dealing with a grandmother who has dementia. To say this film nails its portrayal of dementia is a severe understatement. In most cases, I can throw my thoughts and opinions on a wall and pull what I want for my review. After watching The Father, I couldn’t bring myself to write in that way and needed to find a different route. With that said, The Father is equal parts surreal and painful which makes it that much more brilliant.
The plot of The Father is simple enough. The film follows an elderly man with dementia named Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) who is staying with his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) in between caretakers. Within the first five minutes, it establishes Anthony, Anne, and the flat as major components of the movie. At which moment you realize that this film isn’t told from the perspective of Anne; it is told through Anthony.
The Father is based on a French play called Le Père, which was also made by director Florian Zeller. Much like a play, this movie confines itself to the spaces of the flat in which Anthony is living. While plenty of movies have excelled in a singular location, The Father takes the concept to an entirely new level. Just like Anthony, you are actively comprehending the changes made as it is happening. How you watch this flat evolve is reflective of Anthony’s mental state. To add, it is also reflective of Anthony’s current situation. When you arrive at the end of the movie the flat evolves into something else entirely. This double entendre as to how this singular place changes is brilliant and deserves as much praise as it can get.
As much as the location plays a huge role in the direction of the story, Hopkins is in the driver’s seat. The way he ebbs and flows on an emotional level is just as perplexing as it is awe-inspiring. As for how dementia is, there is no ground on which Anthony lands. He is continuously going in new directions in every scene. With that in mind, once you finish the movie you hit a sort of emotional whiplash. In most cases, I would argue that when a film does this it may not be for good reasons. In the case of The Father, this sort of feeling is vital to the overall experience of the movie.
With a film that is about inconsistencies, there are a lot of consistencies in this movie. Each character represents different parts of this journey. Death, sincerity, anger, and the good and bad in healthcare are all explored in this movie. It does not show all these themes directly, seeing as it shows Anthony’s perspective; rather we see it through the characters. Everyone in the tight cast has a role to play and at no point does one person go to waste. It can be a little cumbersome at first to maneuver through the intricate plot. When you really find your footing, through the assistance of these themes, it truly excels your viewing experience. If anything, you can easily rewatch it once it becomes more readily available.
By the end of the movie, everything hits like a ton of bricks. An early scene that shows Anthony’s mental decline becomes a devastating scene that will leave you in tears upon rewatch. A film that covers as much as The Father does, while telling an enthralling story shouldn’t work as it does. The Father is easily the most brilliant piece of art that I have seen in recent years. If you have the means to watch this now, please do not disservice yourself and miss this movie. – Jacob Mauceri
The Father is currently playing in theaters.
The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, and Imogen Poots.