Today I’m going to be looking at The Father directed by Florian Zeller dementia is a topic primed for triggering an existential crisis. This film portrays it in so clever way that you’ll be able to handle the aftermath. So hold your watch and hear me out.
The Father (2020) Film Review And My Opinion
The Father is about the everyday life of Anthony a man in his 80s who is struggling with dementia within the confines of his flat. He experiences confusing changes and shuns any sort of assistance from his daughter.
She in turn struggles to find a way to help her father. When i heard about this film i immediately recognized the director Florian Zeller’s name. I wasn’t sure where from after scrolling through his rather short IMDB page. I found the 2014 film do not disturb the French name of which i won’t even attempt to pronounce because i will definitely embarrass myself.
Do not disturb is based on a play written by Zela and takes place within the confines of one man’s apartment. He has recently unearthed a treasured vinyl record and wants to play it in peace but keeps getting disrupted.
I understand this film’s 5.7 out of 10 ratings on IMDB because it is very much a comedy of exaggerated stereotypes. However, one thing the film and the play does beautifully is using one location to tell its story in an engaging way. That was my roundabout way of introducing one of The Father’s most powerful features.
Almost all of the action takes place in one location. The point being that this is a feature present in Zela’s other work. Unlike do not disturb the location in The Father takes on a powerful persona of its own that, is crucial to the success of the story.
The flat is the physical embodiment of Anthony’s mind. The rooms are compartments of memory and as each detail disappears or moves or transforms into something else. The audience are physically seeing the confusing world of dementia.
It is a very difficult concept to show visually often characters with dementia in films. It will forget something like Anthony forgets Anne’s husband’s name or lose something like when he loses his watch but that would be it.
There is very much a distance between the character experiencing dementia and the audience. That is not the case in The Father rather than establishing the correct order of events and who said what when zella puts us in Anthony’s shoes by the end.
We have witnessed the same conversations and events. We are no closer to deciding how and when they actually happened. Just like Anthony we are left with this frustrating confusion.
The difference is that we can walk away from it. People with dementia can’t. Antony can’t. It’s a devastating feeling to leave the audience with one that has been developed brilliantly through the writing and the performances.
The Father is one of two films nominated for the best picture academy award this year that manages to evoke a particular and underrepresented state of being. The other film is the sound of metal which focuses on hearing loss.
Both films utilize cinematography sound and editing in creative ways to convey the unique version of the world that their characters are experiencing. I feel like this is one of the best uses of the cinematic medium and shows how powerful it can be in establishing a connection and understanding between people in different situations.
What’s interesting is that this isn’t the first time that The Father has been made. Florian zeller’s play, was previously adapted into the 2015 film titled Florida judging from the trailer, that adaptation treated dementia in a more traditional way using multiple locations as well.
It seems that Zela wasn’t quite sold on that adaptation of his play. So he decided to direct his own version of his idea from the start. The theatre roots of the piece can be felt from the minimal staging.
Small amount of characters and lengthy monologues on Anthony’s part. It reminded me of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom another fantastic adaptation of a play that makes use of its space in a similarly effective way.
In both cases the setting can only do so much. Both adaptations rely on the actors to sell these monologues and make them digestible for a film audience. It almost goes without saying Anthony Hopkins pulls this off, impeccably well with a career built on so many brilliant performances.
He is truly a master of his craft and it is an absolute pleasure to watch him work to watch him play this. Other Anthony who is trying to make sense of the world Hopkins moves between joyful and angry to suspicious and sad with considered pace. His far-off gazes make us anxious for what will come next.
Olivia Coleman keeps up with her own brilliant performance as Anthony’s daughter throughout the film. We get glimpses into how she is experiencing her father’s dementia. She is essentially fighting against the gradual loss of this person that she has known her whole life.
Her desperation is felt through her constantly asking him. Do you remember dialogue is very important in every film but it is especially interesting in The Father? Because the same words are said by different characters.
When Anne is asking her father if he remembers. She is asking him to have the same exact memory as she has many times. He does remember but the event unfolds differently in his memory and the audience is made to question whose version is correct.
Because of the dementia the audience is inclined to side with Anne and this only adds melancholy to the whole situation. Even if Anthony’s memories are true, we don’t trust him. It puts into perspective interactions with people who have memory loss and how belittling.
It must feel to have your every memory questioned even if it is true for me. The moments that were particularly heart-wrenching were the silent ones, where Anne is trying to comprehend what she is seeing and hearing coming from her father.
At one point he doesn’t recognize his own daughter. The real gut punch is that in that moment she also doesn’t recognize him. It is great to see a film that showcases older actors and gives them the space to perform without a convoluted story or unnecessary action.
They can absolutely pull it off. I look forward to seeing what Zela has in store for us with the adaptations of the rest of his trilogy. The mother and the son overall, The Father is a deeply unsettling representation of the aging human mind through the brilliant performances and simple setting.
The frightening experience of dementia is made comprehensible in a saddening but important way.