The subject of dementia is not a common topic in a movie even though it is something that everyone of us will probably encounter in our family or circle of friends during our lifetime in one way or another. The Father is based on an award winning French play by the same name by the film’s writer/ director Florian Zeller. It is basically a movie that puts us into the mind of Anthony (played by Anthony Hopkins), an ailing old man who is suffering the effects of advanced dementia. As such we are faced with a sequence of events which could be real, or a memory, or something totally made up as the mind plays tricks on the dementia patient. Even though there were scenes that played out between characters, without the presence of Anthony, we cannot be sure or draw conclusions that these may be real as opposed to what’s in Anthony’s head.
Having two old parents of my own who are pass 90 years old and showing signs of memory loss and dementia, I can immediately identify with the behaviour displayed so skillfully by Anthony Hopkins. Strangely there seem to be common symptoms like hallucination, invention of conversations with people that never existed, the accusation of people stealing their possessions, the displeasure towards people taking care of them, and the mixing up of actual facts and conversations with made up ones as well. The film has masterfully portrayed how it can be in the mind of someone suffering from dementia. The confusion , the sense of loss, depression and loneliness. There is no easy solution and answer to this. It is what it is, and there can be no happy ending. The film also highlights the challenges of people faced with caring for such patients. The disruption to personal lifestyle for the immediate family members, and the stress and disagreements faced by the care givers.
Olivia Colman plays the daughter to Anthony who had to struggle between making sure her father is taken care of while maintaining her own work and life schedule. Both Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins are such accomplished actors they can read a telephone directory and make it look Shakespearean! Under the experience directing by Florian Zeller, the film becomes a fascinating and sympathetic study of human behaviour when challenged by ageing and the loss of cognitive function. I think the film succeeds in giving people an opportunity to appreciate how it is when someone is suffering from dementia which in turn helps people living with them show more empathy. The film has already won the attention of the various film festivals, and has garnered 6 Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture and for both Best Actor and Best Actress. It is a strong entry in this year’s list of rather grim movies for Oscar favorites, and I am looking forward to seeing it get the recognition it deserves.