There are a good number of Oscar nominated movies throughout the years about the elderly and dementia, but The Father has a unique way of portraying these ideas. While the audience is not explicitly told, we quickly figure out that we are experiencing the story from the point of view of an elderly man spiraling into dementia. Characters sometimes change actors from one scene to the next. The timeline takes a sudden jump backward or forward, sometimes creating a sense of deja vu. And while the layout stays the same, details within the apartment that the majority of the film takes place in are suddenly completely different from one scene to the next. This makes the film much more immersive and the audience more sympathetic to the day to day hardships of living with dementia.
In The Father, Anthony Hopkins portrays Anthony, an elderly man who does not want any assistance in his day to day life. His daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman) tries to help him, but she cannot be there for him constantly. Anthony has scared off at least three previous nurses, and meeting the newest one she’s found may be the last straw before Anne decides to put her father in an assisted living home.
Anthony Hopkins’ performance is so compelling, heartbreaking and sadly authentic to what one may expect from a man whose mind is devolving from age. The visible confusion often on his face feels genuine. The moment when he’s trying to gently ask of Paul stole his watch is a sad and awkward dance that so many have unfortunately had with loved ones. One of his best moments is the scene where he meets his new nurse, Laura. At first, he’s charming, witty and even a bit eccentric, claiming to have been a dancer. Just when the characters and audience are at ease, he takes a sudden turn in his tone, becoming hateful and angry, leaving Anne in embarrassed tears with the new nurse. And by the end of the film, I was crying along with poor, scared Anthony.
The Father is currently nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Anthony Hopkins received his sixth Oscar nomination, his fourth as lead actor. Olivia Colman is nominated for supporting actress for the first time, her second Oscar nomination. The film is also nominated for film editing, production design and adapted screenplay.
The Father is a compelling and intelligently written film that helps us understand the cruel reality many elderly live in, often where they can’t even trust their own sense of reality. While I don’t recall the words dementia or Alzheimer’s ever vocalized in the film, it brings these conditions to light in a new, sympathetic way that many may have never considered. At times, I found myself remembering moments from my grandfather’s final years that suddenly made more sense. And for that alone, I feel forever connected to and grateful for this film, I’m sure others will feel the same.
“I feel as if I’m losing all my leaves… The branches and the wind and the rain. I don’t know what’s happening anymore. Do you know what’s happening?”