A friend recommended The Father to me, with words of caution: it’s hard to watch. He was right. But hard to watch doesn’t mean don’t watch. In this case it means the film is so powerful, devastating, brilliant, and so close to home that the discomfort I experience is illuminating, even reassuring: I am not alone.
I watched this film about a man struggling with dementia because I too had a father who suffered and succumbed to dementia, and who knows, it might be my own fate someday.
Anthony Hopkins, who deservedly won an Academy Award for his performance, plays a father (also named Anthony) who is losing touch with his sense of self and reality. He’s not a sweet old man, although beneath his illness-induced anger, angst, confusion, and meanness, you catch glimpses of what might have been his former self.
Anthony rejects caregivers brought in by his daughter, Anne, played by Olivia Colman (The Crown), moves in with Anne, regularly insults Anne, confuses her husband for someone else, is not sure where he’s living, struggles with his distress, occasionally experiences moments of lucidity—everything someone suffering from dementia might go through.
The brilliance of the film is that the narrative reflects Anthony’s state of mind: fractured and confusing. You’re not sure what is reality and what is delusional. Events don’t occur in a linear fashion. One of the two characters that play Anne’s husband might not even exist outside of Anthony’s perception.
Quiet yet compelling. Beautiful yet despairing. Capped by a powerful, emotional ending. Watch it if you can take it.