Anthony is refusing assistance from his daughter Anne as he is ageing and no longer capable of taking care of himself. The onset of his dementia is causing his reality to be warped and creates such doubt in conversations with his loved ones and even more so his own mind.
I truly believe that this film will become massively important for people learning of dementia diagnosis for a loved one and how things will change for everyone involved. It will not only break your heart but shatter it into a million pieces, over and over again.
We watch as Anthony seems rather switched on to begin with but then the confusion hits as we as a viewer attempt to actually work out who is who in his world. Is his daughter Anne really his daughter and which actress is she really? That is something that we can never be fully sure of to begin with and it allows you to be transported more into Anthony’s mind and how he is seeing things. We get to know that he actually has two daughters, the other named Lucy and this is something that hurts Anne even more considering how often he mentions her rather than being thankful for Anne.
The way in which the characters are changed throughout is powerful in the sense of actually leaving the viewers confused and quite frankly that is the whole point! To share the confusion and allow everyone to gain even the smallest understanding of how it might feel to the person with dementia. How they lose trust and no longer really know who they can trust, how the treatment you have towards them can end up being so cruel. Anne has a very tough time as well attempting to not fully lose her father and keep part of him at least alive. A truly draining situation for her that we see unfold.
The final scene is easily some of the best acting and editing I have ever seen, the breakdown and in such a way that highlights the nature of the disease and no longer knowing who you are anymore and that your whole life has passed and you do not remember any of it. Anthony longing for his mother and being comforted by a nurse was really on another level and the cut to the leaves blowing outside was breathtaking.
The Father is based on a play and is very much a personal production for director and writer Florian Zeller who originally wrote the play in French, before it was transferred to the West End and then Broadway. I was lucky enough to see it in 2016 and was truly blown away by it, being one of the most powerful plays I have seen on stage. That certainly created a big expectation for myself when watching the film and given Zeller having control it was never going to disappoint. That is certainly the case and we are given an utterly breathtaking insight into dementia/Alzheimer’s disease and how much it impacts the person suffering from it and the impact on family members. It is a very personal thing for myself as my Nanna had it before she died and it is the worst thing to go through with a family member you truly love, having them physically still with you but with no idea who you are or the incredible memories of their life and yours.
Anthony Hopkins delivers a devastatingly wonderful and heartbreaking performance, for which he deserves every single award. He is utterly fantastic and captures the pain and suffering brought on by memory loss and no longer being able to understand the reality in which he is in. Still adding charm and charisma but then also the pain, so much pain. I mean we all know he is an outstanding actor but to still be able to put in such a performance now in his 80s is remarkable and I truly feel he should be picking up his second Oscar for this (shocking that he only has one win to his name I know). Utterly brilliant.
Olivia Colman is perfect opposite Hopkins in the scenes they share together and that is an aspect that really gives the situation and film more emphasis. She manages to show how much it breaks you mentally and physically and I thought the pain in her eyes really sums up this truly awful disease. Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell making up the cast and all adding to different scenes in so many different ways.
It is by no means and easy watch and if like myself you have first hand experience of dementia then you are going to find some of the scenes very distressing and tough to watch. However, I really feel that anything that can help highlight the different stages and how you might feel by raising awareness through film then that makes me rather happy.