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Review of Oscar Best Picture nominee “The Father” with Anthony Hopkins

The Father
The Father

‘THE Father’ is currently nominated as Oscar best picture while its title-roler, Anthony Hopkins, is nominated as best actor. There have been many films about Alzheimer’s Disease, like “Still Alice” (Julianne Moore won her Oscar), the French film “Amour” (Oscar best foreign language film winner), “Iris” (Judy Dench got an Oscar nomination), “The Savages” (Laura Linney got an Oscar nomination) and the huge hit “The Notebook” with Gena Rowlands.

So you might say the material is not at all new, but not one of them is like “The Father”, the structure of which is told totally from the viewpoint of the person suffering from dementia. Anthony (Hopkins) is an 80-year old man (he’s 83 in real life) living in his own flat. At first, you’d think the movie is being told from the point of view of his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman), but as the film goes along, you realize that his mind is already so confused because of Alzheimer’s disease and his memories of things and events are all jumbled up.

We will no longer get into the details of his confusion as it will be a big spoiler. Through it all, it’s the excellent acting of Hopkins that holds it all together. The final scene where he breaks down, reduced to a vulnerable child shown crying and simpering, asking for his mommy, is honestly just too devastating.

The deterioration of one’s mind due to dementia has never been portrayed on screen this effectively. It places us right into the mental state of a patient who is gradually and steadily losing his mind and just cannot do anything about it.

Offhand, the Father looks so rational and coherent, but as he keeps on discovering for himself, his grasp and comprehension of what’s happening to him seem to be shifting and changing all the time. The effect is just heartbreaking.

Hopkins runs an entire gamut of emotions here, starting as a proud man who lives defiantly alone and is in denial of his ailment, then he goes from frustration to disgust and outrage and desperation. Through it all, not once does it feel that it’s just all put on but so real. His character here is so far away from his Oscar-winning role as Hannibal Lecter.

In another season, he might have gotten his second Oscar award, but this year, he’s up against the late Chadwick Boseman, who’s understandably a sentimental favorite. “The Father” is the directorial debut of French writer Florian Zeller, who based it on his own 2012 play, “La Pere”.

His film is a penetrating, insightful depiction about the harrowing effects of aging and the degeneration of one’s brain cells that leads to loss of memory, confusion, disorientation and behavioral changes. Sometimes, we have to guess what is real and what’s not.

But you realize that his intention is to put the viewer into the shoes of the Father to make us experience first hand what dementia must be like. We become as muddled and disoriented as he is when some scenes seem to loop back in by themselves to make you realize you’re losing your sensible grip on reality.

Scenes when some actors unexplainably switch roles also show us a fleeting window that immerses us to know how having dementia could feel like. On this, we should commend also the production design. The London flat where most of this not-feel good movie takes place is constantly changing in its furnishings and arrangements, according to the Father’s mind. It’s never the same so it takes on its own personality like it’s a character in itself.

Publication Source :    People's Journal
Mario Bautista
Former member: Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Urian)