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The Father

Review: written November 2021

Quietly devastating depiction of dementia

The Father

Anthony Hopkins commands the screen, portraying a man we learn is experiencing a form of dementia, and the effect this has on his relationship with his daughter (Olivia Colman). And experiencing is the right word, as the film manages the neat trick of making us feel we are in the situation, and not seeing it from the outside in. The movie unfolds within the confines of the place where he lives, somewhere at once familiar, and yet becoming increasingly and distressingly unfamiliar. Our awareness and experience of his frame of mind is brilliantly created through various techniques – at the subtle end of the scale, there is furniture which has moved from scene to scene, objects disappearing from day to day, all of which unnerves even before we realise what is happening. And then at the more obvious level there is the timeline which becomes increasingly confusing / fractured to us (as it is to the father), and even us questioning who characters are, as they appear unfamiliar from one scene to the next. It’s incredibly effective, leading to the ultimately quietly devastating conclusion.

The Father

Not a movie to watch lightly, particularly if you have any experience with those suffering or who suffered from any kind of dementia, but if you’re willing to brave it, this is a compelling watch. With the tricks it uses us to get us into the head of someone in this position, it perhaps inevitably does feel like we are too aware of the mechanics of what is happening, peering behind the curtain of the filmmaker to some extent. The very language of cinema is deliberately distorted to allow us to feel the increasing distortion in the Fathers head. It’s not a surprise to find out this first existed as a stage play, as it is feels so specifically engineered and crafted to have its particular effect on us but if you can acknowledge those thumbprints of the filmmaker and put them to the side, allowing yourself to stay in the moment, the movie and the performances will work on you to heartbreaking effect. It’s stayed with me, giving me food for thought for days since. Surely a sign of a film worth watching.

The Father

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