Written by Siddhartha Krishnan | 4 Min Read
If the mind is a labyrinth of myriad thoughts and memories, then ‘The Father’ is an exquisite cinematic depiction of its mysterious workings. It imagines memories to be like pieces of a puzzle, that lack meaning by themselves. But when stitched together, they are like rooms of a house.
Florian Zellar’s ‘The Father‘ is as close to perfection that a film can strive to be. With a subject like dementia, it was easy to make another sob fest. Thankfully, however, the makers chose catharsis over melodrama. And so, we enter a fragmented mind, to experience up close the confusion and helplessness.
The film follows an octogenarian, who is constantly forgetting important life events. He is stubborn, egoistic, and yet a charmer. Anthony (played by Sir Anthony Hopkins) is not able to understand why his memory regularly fails him. Anne, his daughter, and principal caregiver (played by Olivia Colman) tries everything within her capacity to pacify him. But it is a losing battle, and sadly, acceptance is their only road to salvation.
To say that ‘The Father’ is heart-breaking is a no-brainer. But the overriding emotion one feels as an audience is confusion, since we are seeing things from the perspective of a dementia patient. But how did the director manage to achieve that?
The answer lies in the production design.
Perceptibly, there are three locations shown in the film. Anthony’s flat, Anne’s house, and the hospital. Set designer Peter Francis, in an interview explains, that to infuse confusion in the narrative they kept the architecture more or less the same across the imagined locations. But to distinguish between these locations, they made minor changes to the furnishings and furniture, which aren’t easily noticeable.
Also, doorways play an important role to show perspective—who is on the inside, and who is on the outside? Or to be more specific—what is real and what is unreal? The use of similar looking doors to move from one space to another, where the spaces themselves look oddly similar, gives the feeling that we are swimming through someone’s memories. Additionally, color tones of the walls, windows and furnishings, distinguish between different timelines, since Anthony frequently navigates between the past and present without his knowing.
‘The Father’ undoubtedly rides on the shoulders of its actors. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, director Florian Zeller said that he chose Anthony Hopkins for the role because we’ve known him to have essayed characters that are typically dominant or in control of their situation. For him to be shown as a dementia patient, the director believes was the perfect antithesis given Hopkin’s filmography. Well, an Oscar for best actor in a leading role proves that theory!
However, without a brilliant Olivia Colman, as Anne, the scenes wouldn’t have made the impact that it did. She brings in the required empathy and vulnerability to her role. She holds her own in all the scenes with the stalwart and elevates them. The two give a masterclass in acting.
To sum up, ‘The Father’ is a labor of love. It plays with very little and yet is magical. It is a rare piece of cinema that makes you cry, but with a profound realization. A must watch.
IMDb rating – 8.2/10
My Rating – 5/5
You can watch ‘The Father’ on Book my Show app for a rental of Rs 89.
Siddhartha Krishnan is the author of Two and a Half Rainbows – A Collection of Short Stories. He is a blogger and, on his website, www.whatsonsidsmind.com, you can find his travel diaries, food stories, book recommendations and movie reviews.
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