Currently playing in UK cinemas is The Father – the Anthony Hopkins-starring drama about an aging man living with progressive dementia. The movie – directed by Florian Zeller – is based on the French play Le Père, and features a cast that includes Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Rufus Sewell, and Olivia Williams.
In the movie, Hopkins takes on the role of Anthony – a father of two, who is losing his grip on reality. Dementia has ravaged his mind, causing much confusion, and in recent times his mental health has started to deteriorate.
For a while, Anthony’s daughter, Anne has looked after her father, providing him with care and assistance, but the situation has now moved beyond the point where she can provide him with the support he needs. And unfortunately, despite her best efforts to find a suitable carer, Anthony regularly finds a reason to dismiss all of the people she hires.
The only solution is for Anthony to move into a home, where he can receive around-the-clock care. But Anthony doesn’t feel that he needs to change his current living arrangement, because as far as he is concerned, things are perfectly fine as they are.
However, as the story unfolds it becomes quite clear that Anthony is far from fine, and the more confused he becomes, the more his mind starts to spiral out of control. This leads to a fascinating yet troublesome journey, which explores what it is really like for someone living with a mind-changing illness.
Although The Father has only just landed in UK cinemas, there is a good chance that you have already heard a fair bit about this movie. This is because earlier in the year, The Father picked up two Oscars, as well as two British Academy Film Awards, so it arrives off the back of much praise.
A great deal of this praise has been focused towards Anthony Hopkins. So, it seems only natural that I start this review by highlighting how good Hopkins is in this role, and how important he is to the film.
The performance he gives throughout this picture is mesmerising. Across the course of the story, he is an acting tour de force, delivering every emotion under the sun, from happiness to despair, to excitement, bewilderment, and everything in between.
Hopkins’ performance is nuanced, it is something truly wonderful to watch, and it is the heart of this movie. Everything that happens in the story is centred around his character, and if he didn’t deliver in the way he does, the film would simply not be what it is.
Hopkins is nothing short of incredible. He deserved the awards he picked up for this part and I can assure you now, that if you watch this movie (and you should), regardless of what you ultimately think of the picture, you will come away feeling that he gave it is all, and then some!
Now as much as I am keen to heap praise on Hopkins, plaudits must also go to the script, which manages to take the complex subject of dementia, and use it as the basis for a topsy-turvy story. This isn’t a movie with a straight-forward narrative – this is one which is shaped by its subject matter and is designed to keep the audience on its toes, and off balance, by constantly throwing confusion at the screen.
Some scenes play out in a linear pattern, while others double back on themselves. Most of the characters become interchangeable, and there’s a real sense that nothing is what it seems.
The story has been written this way to convey to the audience that this is what it feels like to live with dementia. This isn’t a film about how friends and relatives deal with someone engulphed by this illness, but rather what it is like for the individual who is stuck in the thick of it.
Anyone who has sadly had experience with someone who has suffered from dementia, will instantly connect with the material. At times, this may create an uncomfortable watch, but this only goes to demonstrate just how powerful this story is, and the lengths it goes to, to make everything feel so real.
But as good as both Hopkins and the story are, I have to say that not everything in this movie works as well as it could. As previously mentioned, this film is based on a play and despite its best efforts to present something new, it never quite manages to shake its origins.
A few of the scenes in The Father feel a little too stagey for my liking, and due to the small cast, as well as the minimal setting (the film largely takes place in one location), at times certain scenes play out like a theatre production. This is not necessarily what I want from a movie and I don’t feel the film quite takes advantage of the change in medium.
I also found myself a little disappointed with the ending of the picture. It’s not bad, and it does seem inevitable, but I wanted a little bit more.
But despite some minor criticisms, and they are only minor, The Father is a damn fine picture – and there’s no denying it. There are few films that have managed to convey dementia in quite the same way that this one does (although 2020’s Relic came close), and this is something which needs to be recognised and praised.
You’ll want to watch this movie for Anthony Hopkins, and he really is the big draw here, but I assure you this film delivers at almost every level. This is a strong movie, with an important story to tell, so be sure to give a whirl as soon as you can – it is not to be missed.