MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Anthony (Hopkins) seems to be enjoying his life. Although he is 80 years old, he is visited often by his daughter Anne (Colman), who also makes sure that caretakers come in to clean his apartment, provide companionship, and keep him on his medications.
Lately, things have begun to get a bit confusing. Anthony cannot find a favorite watch and is convinced that a former caregiver has stolen it. Anne informs him that she plans to move to Paris to live with someone she has met. Anthony suspects that she is having an extramarital affair. She tells him that she’s been divorced for five years.
The next day Anthony wakes up to see a man (Mark Gatiss) named Paul who informs him that (rather than living in his own apartment), Anthony has been living with his daughter and son-in-law in their flat. When Anne arrives home with chicken, she appears to be another person altogether (played by Olivia Williams). And there is another man named Paul (Rufus Sewell).
Laura, a new caregiver (Imogene Poots), arrives for her first day and she and Anthony seem to hit it off. He is playful and engaging and says that she reminds him of his other daughter Lucy, who is an artist. But he can’t seem to find that painting of hers that used to hang above the mantel.
And so it goes.
The Father is based on an award-winning stage play by the director that is enhanced by an ever-changing (and Oscar-nominated) set design that helps communicate the ongoing disorientation of advanced dementia that Anthony faces one small step at a time, day after day. Although the movie deals with a serious topic, I was surprised at how entertaining and clever it is.
I appreciated the obvious love and attention that Anthony receives from his family, doctor and caregiver, but I am also aware of the inequities of elder care that so many families have to deal with. Inadequate health insurance, housing, and nutrition are very real concerns for a majority of people as they navigate the demands of their later years. A depiction of working-class Brits dealing with aging would be another story altogether.
Conversations around dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease will only increase as more of us live beyond the “three score and ten” that the Bible thinks is a long shot (Psalm 90:10). I can imagine that The Father will help a lot of adult children to understand and care for parents in their dotage.
Time’s a’wastin’. I’ve got to get my kids to see this!
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: A thought-provoking and empathetic depiction of one family’s struggle with dementia.
One pitchfork: Occasional swearing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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