The Father: "There's something funny going on"
Olivia Colman (Anne) and Anthony Hopkins (Anthony)
The physical and mental deterioration of a loved person in your life is unsettling and emotionally draining. The Father is an extraordinary film in that it directs us to view a person’s deteriorating sense of reality through that person’s eyes. Rather than being observational, it is a direct translation of the decline in a person’s perception of their existence.
Anthony Hopkins delivers an outstanding performance as the father, Anthony. Hopkins takes us into an emotional labyrinth from which there appears to be no exit. Olivia Colman as his daughter Anne and the remaining cast members—only nine of them— shape the heartache of family and support workers who witness Anthony’s diminishing situation.
Anne’s emotions range from love, frustration, sadness, anger and back to love for her father.
Olivia Colman as Anne
The film’s timeline is a series of disjointed and apparently muddled events with occurrences, such as a dinner conversation, repeated out-of-order.
The timeline illustrates how a person dealing with dementia perceives the world. Time, places, events and people blend into a disordered continuity of incidents. That’s Anthony’s ordeal of dementia.
Initially, you wonder whether the director Florian Zeller has made an error in the chronology of events or that his editor was asleep at the editing console. It becomes apparent that Zeller is using the language of film, in particular editing and set design, to build a portrayal of Anthony’s frailty.
Anthony’s straightforward comment, “There’s something funny going on”, captures the complex nature of how he sees the world in a succinct manner. He recognises things are not as they should be but can’t alter it. It is his reality.
The Father presents Anthony’s life as a continuous flow of time with all the pieces rearranged into an order that creates a sense of dislocation, confusion and an inability to distinguish how all the pieces of his life fit together. The audience’s uncertainly about the flow of events gives us a sense of what is happening to him.
The Father’s origins as a stage play are evident in the constrained nature of the set design. Everything takes place in a London apartment. As the film unfolds, the set becomes complicit in showing Anthony’s perspective of his world. The limitations of the apartment setting amplify the father’s deteriorating memory. The changes within the set, from the wall colour, to the paintings on the wall and books in the bookcase, become essential witnesses to Anthony’s decline.
Official Trailer: The Father
The film’s director and writer of the original stage play, Florian Zeller, appears to have used personal experiences to shape a convincing and heart-wrenching story of one person’s spiral into a vortex of confusion, anxiety, fear and desperation regarding his mental stability and recognition of what he would have believed incontrovertibly true.
How do anyone of us negotiate our world if we don’t accept, without doubt, that the world we see and experience is incontrovertibly true?
We react to the revelations in The Father, which attests to the notion that what we understand of the world is solely and totally represented by our perceptions. How do any of us make sense of the world? We all have a unique worldview.
If you have a person in your life who experiences dementia or another form of deterioration, you will find The Father harrowing. Even if you don’t have a direct involvement with anyone living with dementia, you will receive a reality check and a raw sensory connection to the father’s plight.
The Father is a magnificent film cemented by the outstanding performances of Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. Having said that, The Father is not a film for everyone. It’s important to approach this film with the understanding that Anthony is experiencing anguish, anger, confusion, moments of exhilaration and, ultimately, a sense that his world has imploded due to the deteriorating nature of his perception of his world. Be prepared to be emotionally challenged and impressed by its cinematic qualities.