There is something about Sir Anthony Hopkins. This immensely talented 83-year-old two-time Academy Award winner (the recent one for The Father, incidentally) is nothing short of a treat to watch. Playing an 80-year-old Londoner (Anthony) in Florian Zeller-directed The Father, which recently dropped on the relatively new OTT platform LionsgatePlay, he is a lesson in what acting is all about. With dementia slowly hollowing him out, Anthony fights with his daughter Anne (a brilliant Olivia Coleman), his emotions, his reality, and finally, himself, as he is sucked into a dark void which no person can truly understand.
To say that the film is a difficult watch, would be an understatement. It stabs at your emotions, hitting your raw nerves. We all have parents, and to see what age can do to them is torture on your senses. Moreover, writer-director Zeller tells the story from Anthony’s perspective. And this, at the best of times, can be tricky, at worst, deeply confusing. We are seeing the film unfold through the emotions and eyes of a person who is not half sure of what is happening to him or around him. As he keeps repeating: “There is something going on Anne, I tell you.” Yes, there is definitely something going on. And it is painful to witness that.
Coleman’s Anne is the daughter one can relate to. Here is a woman trying too hard to somehow make everything work—her life, her work, taking care of a father who is crumbling in front of her eyes, but is difficult nonetheless, a partner who tries to understand, but fails, and finally giving in. Also, the tricks Anthony’s mind plays on him all the time—dementia can be one snarky trickster—are brought to the audience in their very brutality. You are almost tempted to shut your eyes at times.
As the brilliant film comes to an end, there is that spectacular scene that was played when Sir Anthony Hopkins was nominated at the Oscars—an old, defenceless Anthony, unsure and scared, cries, “I want my mummy. I want to go home. I want my mummy to fetch me home.” It is heartbreaking. And this scene alone reiterates how difficult and lonely dementia can be—not just for the person suffering from it, but for those who love him and even the caregivers. A difficult watch, yes; but a must-watch.