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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

The Father

A Brilliant Portrayal Of Unusual Madness

See It Or Skip It: See It

What if Alice had never made it to wonderland? What if she had just kept falling deeper and deeper into the abyss with no landing?

The rabbit hole itself is just as nonsensical as a wonderland, with furniture everywhere and music born to overwhelm you. This is very much what severe dementia looks like to those of us watching someone trapped inside of it who has no understanding of it. Many of us have older family members whom we love dearly, we grew up with them and saw them shine in their prime. We looked up to them for guidance and could not even imagine their decline. Now we see some of these individuals trapped beneath that rabbit hole and trapped on the other side of the looking glass. Many of us will sacrifice so much (sometimes, almost everything) to nurture these poor souls that have become shells of what they use to be, but no matter how kind the heart, dementia makes it so that we can never shatter that looking glass or reach the bottom of that rabbit hole to lift them back up.

Anyone who has read my review for Sound Of Metal knows I am very clear on what having a disability really means and what is and isn't one. Dementia is absolutely a disability and sadly, it's so much more than that. Florian Zeller’s The Father is a heart-shattering masterpiece that represents those who will never know they're now being represented. Anthony Hopkins plays Anthony (Perhaps the character sharing his name made it feel more real and more frightening), a man who the predator called dementia decided to pounce on and slowly rip to shreds. Olivia Colman portrays his daughter Anne who continuously finds herself in over her head as she tries to care for him to the best of her ability.

Everyone I know who has seen The Father confessed to feeling so many emotions afterward that it actually hurts and that it's not a film they stop thinking about after a day, even a week. By the time The Father ends, you are bound to feel such rage towards the existence of the film's predator because the affliction that comes from dementia is on full display so that audiences can really see dementia for what it is. I am still in the healing process from having seen the movie. If the memories of the film were on my wrists instead of my mind, washing them with soup would only make it burn instead of rinsing off.

Anthony Hopkins' performance is for the ages and perfectly helps the film portray dementia as the ugly, repulsive, foul, insidious, grotesque, monstrous, horrible, disgusting beast that it is. The illness literally KILLS you from the inside out. It's worse than cancer because it's not about killing your body, it's about killing YOU. Once dementia completely kills the person you were, a stranger acts as a vessel to your body until it dies. In other words, you're dead but your body isn't. You're literally being possessed by someone that isn't you, very much like a demon would.

Olivia Colman is equally brilliant as she always is in everything she touches. The Father is just as much her story as it is Hopkins. The Father is meant to represent not just those with dementia but those who through association with those who have it end up getting caught in the crossfire. It's not enough for dementia to haunt its victims, it has to gloat that it's won and that it owns you. Dementia can't do that to someone if they don't understand that they have it so they'll gloat to people like Anne who has to watch her father suffer.

Another thing I'll say about Colman’s performance is how far away she is from the character she plays in The Favourite. The Favourite is literally my happy place, it's a film that always brings me such joy. Colman’s work in that film always makes me laugh and smile and just sit on the couch in awe of her craft. Queen Anne was someone who needed constant care and attention. She needed to be taken care of to such a high extent and Olivia Colman completely embodied that. Now she's played someone who's completely on the other side of that and I was so taken aback. I'm not used to seeing her like this but she totally rose up to the challenge and did a miraculous job acting on the other side of her looking glass.

The Father mostly takes place in the London flat that Anthony claims are his (though it soon becomes clear that he had moved into Anne’s). The interior decoration of this flat is so beautiful that it's nauseating to see such sadness take place in what should be such paradise. The Father was adapted from a French play and as you watch it, you can see just how easily this must've been directed on a stage. There aren't many characters, the set never changes and dialogue and great acting are all that's required. Many of the films nominated for the Oscars this year are films that stay with you after you have left the theater... The Father is one that will stay with you probably too long for your liking but it's a brilliant portrayal of unusual madness set inside the compounds of what is no longer a home. How grand it will be to see the film celebrated on the 24th of this month. How grand indeed.

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