4.5 out of 5 stars
One of the best aspects of the film industry is showing how characters emotionally and mentally process life’s situations. Filmmakers can take you into individuals' experiences and provide a physical manifestation of the various states of mind that people experience. This makes for fascinating cinema and engaging storytelling when it is done well. In his award-winning play that has now been made into a feature film, French director Florian Zeller manages to take viewers into the process of ageing. A world where the lead character and his family experience the effects of the confusing and debilitating world of dementia.
It all begins amongst London's beautiful streets where Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) lives in his flat with few worries as he enjoys his senior years. He benefits from the loving care of his doting daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman). She does all she can to make her father comfortable and to feel safe. Until recently, when he manages to scare off another full-time carer who had been hired to provide relief for both Anthony and his daughter. Anthony blames the woman for stealing his watch, even though the timepiece was right in the place where he had left it earlier in the day.
As Anne tries to find someone to help her with her father's care, it becomes apparent that he has lost his ability to fully grasp reality. Each day this becomes more apparent as he awakens in his home. Yet, his environment begins to contain some subtle changes, while on other days he finds that things have taken a more abrupt turn. He manages to forget many of the conversations that he has had with his daughter about many significant life events. Some days he remembers her husband Paul (Rufus Sewell). In contrast, on other days Anthony believes that Anne lives alone in his apartment. While some mornings, he realises that this flat is not even his, but it belongs to his daughter and spouse. Each day becomes a journey for all involved as they navigate this emotionally charged existence to determine what is real and how to care for Anthony.
All of this may sound like a familiar narrative, but what Florian Zeller manages to do with his screenplay is to show it all through Anthony's eyes. He introduces a disjointed timeline that makes the audience feel the discombobulation of his lead actor. As different characters change roles and with the slight changes within the apartment, the story cuts a fine line between psychological drama and a tale of ageing horror. Each scene is perfectly framed and disturbingly exposes us to the mind of someone going through this inevitable season of humanity. His use of space, colour and character development draws us into this misunderstood and terrifying mindset of this family’s life season.
There can be no more significant opportunity for a first-time director than to have some of the past few decades' greatest actors to be part of your project. Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman and Rufus Sewell manage to embody this surreal reality experienced by so many families around the world. Their performances capture the emotional turmoil and relational tensions that occur in the lives of those who watch their loved ones go through the ageing process. Between the confining, yet beautiful setting and the magnificent performances, this has to be one of the best films of the year. A story that will be difficult for many to watch, but it may provide the catharsis that many need to see that their experiences are shared with others throughout the years.
The Father is a well-crafted film that proves that artistry can give us a glimpse into the still unknown inner recesses of the human mind. While showing us how the changes that occur within it can manage to influence everyone around us.
REEL DIALOGUE: Is life merely waiting to die?
One of the underlying themes of The Father is trying to understand old age. After living through the most critical events in life, one must consider what to do with the later years. What we can know from the Bible is that every day on this earth is a gift. So, what will you do with the life you have been given? Ponder the ‘what ifs’ of life or seek after the ‘what to do’ with the life we have been given.
Grey hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. Proverbs 16:31