As people age we deal with a variety of diseases, and one of the most debilitating diseases is dementia. While there have been a few films that try to tackle what it’s like to deal with dementia, or someone who has dementia, most of them take a very practical look at the disease. The Father takes a slightly more unique look at dementia that’s both riveting and suspenseful. Join us as we take a deep dive into the world of dementia in our review of The Father.
The Father is based on a play titled Le Père, which makes it feel more intimate than many other films. There are only a handful of filming locations as the movie focuses almost entirely on the home of Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) and his family. Joining Anthony is his sometimes daughter Anne (Olivia Colman), her sometimes husband Paul / The Man (Rufus Sewell), her sometimes husband Paul / The Man (Mark Gatiss) and sometimes Anne / The Woman (Olivia Williams).
Many of the actors are playing multiple roles because the audience watches the film through Anthony’s perspective. As he suffers through dementia he doesn’t always know who he’s interacting with. At the onset of the film, everything seems normal. Anne is looking for a caretaker for Anthony because she is moving away to France. Of course Anthony is old and stubborn and doesn’t need a caretaker.
As the film progresses, things get more and more eerie. Paul is sometimes played by Rufus Sewell and other times played by Mark Gatiss. Anne is sometimes played by Olivia Colman and other times played by Olivia Williams. Events also change throughout, as Anne is moving to France in some instances, but in others she isn’t moving and never was.
What makes The Father so interesting is the fact that it feels almost like a horror or suspense film. As Anthony gets more and more confused as his dementia sets in, the audience fears for him. Is what he’s experiencing reality? Are people trying to play tricks on him? The subtle score of the film and the nuances of each actor playing these characters just adds to the tension that oozes throughout The Father.
This is a film that could have been told from any of the character’s perspectives, or a neutral perspective. Instead, director and writer Florian Zeller (who also wrote and directed the play), chose to have the audience take in these experiences through Anthony’s eyes. This adds an intriguing layer of depth to everything that’s going on, and elevates the material to greatness.
Many people will be lucky enough to never have to experience what it’s like to have dementia. With no firsthand knowledge of that experience, it’s difficult to determine just how accurate The Father is, but the stellar performances coupled with what we know of dementia makes this extremely believable, and a freighting experience. The Father should be required material for family members once someone is diagnosed with dementia.
About The Father
Synopsis: A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.
Director: Florian Zeller
Writer: Florian Zeller, Christopher Hampton
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss
Runtime: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes