Review of ‘The Father’: A Powerful Film that Tackles Dementia and Support
You may be aware of the newly released film, ‘The Father’, currently out in cinemas. Starring Anthony Hopkins as Anthony, a cantankerous eighty-year old living alone in his London flat, and Olivia Colman as his daughter Anne; this storytelling is a first of its kind. Never has a film about dementia made the audience such an active participant in the sufferer’s deterioration.
For an hour and a half, the film immerses its audience in the realities of dementia - the slow unravelling of Anthony’s sensibilities, and the constant questioning that comes with it. This isn’t unchartered territory - films like ‘The Notebook’ and ‘Still Alice’ show the same heartbreaking familial impact Alzeimher’s wreaks, but they (and films of their ilk) do not so accurately (or acutely) convey the slow-dawning terror that comes with not being able to trust your own mind.
In ‘The Father’, Director Florian Zeller toys with the audience; Colman’s character is suddenly played by a different actress. The lines she just spoke are suddenly contradicted - she was married, now she’s not. There was chicken for dinner, now there’s none. Which scene was real? Just as you think you have your bearings, the rug is pulled from beneath. The film is a puzzle, and none of the pieces seem to fit together. Purposefully confusing, disorientating and often frustrating, you’re forced to question everything you see and hear. You know what was said in the previous scene; you know that the scene happened just the way it did; you know the actress Olivia Colman is playing Anne… Don’t you?
The reason this film is so incisive and devastating in its portrayal of dementia is that it is all framed within Anthony’s seemingly rational and coherent mind. Just as sure as you are of the scene you just saw, so is the sufferer of dementia in the reality that they believe. Suddenly the ‘strong-willed’, ‘stubborn’, ‘difficult’ (to name a few words often used to describe family members suffering from Alzeimher’s) nature of those afflicted makes sense - wouldn’t you feel the need to defend what you know you saw? Or the conversations you know were spoken?
As the very concept of ‘knowing’ and reality falls away for Anthony and the audience on this journey with him, the film grapples with the timeless question of how best to support your loved one and help them navigate the difficulties of dementia without losing your own life and ambitions. Anne wants to move to France to be with the man she loves, but what does this mean for her ailing father, who feels it is his right to stay in his own home?
This is a heart-wrenching film, but one that is a necessary watch if you want to better understand and empathise with the intricacies of dementia.
For more information on elderly dementia support services offered by ILA visit Household Support Services for Elderly in Kent,Surrey,Sussex (www.ila.life)
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