Movie review: The Father [Zeller]

about dementia

The FatherIn the film The Father, the storytellers found a new way to figure out how to portray losing one’s facilities. We see Anthony (Oscar-nominated Anthony Hopkins) in his apartment.

Or maybe it’s the apartment of his daughter Anne (Oscar-nominated Olivia Colman). She’s moving from London to Paris. He finds this ridiculous since “They don’t even speak English.” Or maybe she isn’t.

Anne is clearly devoted to her father, although occasionally exhausted. Anthony can be prickly with his primary caretaker, which is often the case, though he appears to love her as well.

Laura (Imogen Poots) is one of his caretakers, looking very much like someone else to him. Paul (Rufus Sewell) is Anne’s impatient partner. The portrayal of different actors in the same roles is a clever device. Mark Gatiss is The Man and Olivia Williams, The Woman.

The screenplay is by Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, based on Zeller’s play.  This is probably why the production feels a bit stagey.

Or maybe that’s an asset. Megan Basham of the WORLD notes, “The close-set and small cast are the ideal building blocks to illustrate the narrowing that so often comes with the end of life, when the world available to us, both physically and socially, grows so small.”

Because I was so damned confused – as we are supposed to be, I suspect – I didn’t really warm up to this film until near the end. It’s very well acted; it’s just a tough subject.

In the pantheon

The Father is a fine addition to the list of Movies About Alzheimer’s and Dementia You Shouldn’t Miss, published in January 2020. I’ve seen only the two most recent, Away From Her and Still Alice. These are more dramatic portrayals, as I recall, effective in their own ways.

The reviews for The Father were 98% positive in Rotten Tomatoes. Eli Glasner of the CBC News Network writes, “Ultimately I’m struck by Anthony Hopkins’ courage. At 83, fearlessly taking on this role with such vulnerability.”

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