I don’t know whether anyone ever will synthesize the symptoms, confusion and anger of dementia as well as co-writer and director Florian Zeller has in “The Father.”
Based on his 2012 play “Le Père,” this brilliant movie – one of the best of 2020 – is a lifetime achievement for both Zeller and the incredible Anthony Hopkins in the title role.
Hopkins plays Anthony, a man with dementia who doesn’t know where he is and often doesn’t recognize his grown daughter. The movie begins with Anthony in his own apartment, where at first he seems to be a congenial-enough, if not a bit stubborn, man who is doing fine on his own.
But that’s a veneer. Anthony has dementia, and it is quite clear to his worried daughter Anne (Olivia Colman, “Murder on the Orient Express,”) that he needs someone to help care for him.
Anthony is not always a gentleman, or gentle, for that matter. He is verbally abusive at times, and overwhelms a young woman (Imogen Poots, “Green Room”) who tries to acquiesce to his ever-changing moods and his awareness that ebbs and flows.
The movie made me gasp out loud a couple of times: Wait, wasn’t that character just here? And who exactly is this person, now?
We experience the confusion and frustration just as Anthony does.
The movie, just as Anthony is, can be exasperating, challenging, and ever-changing. Watch the way characters, sometimes played by different performers, move through environments that never remain the same – we see what Anthony sees.
Because my father died after a years-long struggle with dementia – he did not know who I was in his later years – I could not get through this film without tears.
Zeller has created on film the universe that my father must have inhabited. This is a remarkable work, and will be especially compelling for others who have known, loved and lost someone with dementia.
Rated: PG-13 for foul language.
At Cinemark, Davenport.