<div class="paragraphs"><p>Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in <em>The Father</em>.</p></div>

The Father Review: Florian Zeller’s Brilliant Tale of Ageing, Loss & Caregiving

Oscar-nominated The Father is directed by Florian Zeller.

Movie Reviews
4 min read

The Father

The Father Review: Florian Zeller’s Brilliant Tale of Ageing, Loss & Caregiving

“Don’t you remember where you kept your shoes? Don’t you remember what day of the week this is?” - conversations with my 96-year-old grandfather nowadays have mostly been reduced to this. Locked up in the house amidst a raging pandemic, observing the rapid deterioration in my grandfather’s health and being forced to prepare ourselves for the inevitable are nothing short of a nightmare. That’s why Florien Zeller’s Oscar-nominated film The Father (out now in India), hits home.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Anthony Hopkins in <em>The Father</em>.&nbsp;</p></div>

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

The film follows Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an octogenerian from London, who is unable to bear the fact that he is gradually sliding into dementia. Anthony finds it hard to remember anything. He can barely recognise his daughter, gets paranoid about his belongings, repeats things over and again, is constantly anxious about troubling other people but feels helpless in the face of the debilitating illness. The only thing Anthony clings to is his watch. Time doesn't have much meaning for him now, but it feels as if this old man is desperately trying to hold on to memories that are slipping away, one by one.

The horrors of ageing, dementia and the effect it has on caregivers is brilliantly depicted by Zeller, who has based The Father on his own play La Pere and has co-written it along with Christopher Hampton.

The Father seems to begin in the present. Anthony's daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) is trying to make him understand that he should try and accept a carer. Anthony has had fallouts with numerous carers before because he finds it incredibly difficult to come to terms with the fact that he can barely manage to wear his clothes or make himself a cup of tea.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>A still from <em>The Father</em>.</p></div>

A still from The Father.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

Anthony is also paranoid about Anne's decision to go to Paris. Anne implies that if he fails to forge a bond with his new carer, she would be forced to put him in an institution. As the movie progresses, we find it hard to distinguish between what really happens and what Anthony is imagining. Zeller lets the viewers decide how they would like Anthony's life to unfold. Will he find peace in an institution? Will professional carers be able to offer some solace? How will Anne cope with the situation? Anne herself changes her story very often, so the movie makes us guess till it shows us the mirror in the end.


The Father, almost entirely, takes place inside an apartment. The spacious flat has a number of doors, but they don't open to the places Anthony expects. The doors function as compartments of the brain, where we have a number of memories stored. Sometimes, fond memories of people we want to remember surface, while at other times we are greeted with unpleasant experiences.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Anthony Hopkins in a still from <em>The Father</em>.</p></div>

Anthony Hopkins in a still from The Father.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

The intricate screenplay explores Anthony's steady decline and the story is narrated mostly through his eyes. The fear, the rage, the helplessness, the pain - it's unbearable at times to watch Anthony slowly surrendering to the fact that he has almost lost the ability to relate to a normal life. Anthony Hopkins gives a flawless performance. He portrays a man struggling to retain his pride and dignity while his senses fail him with the acute sensitivity that the character demands.

The film is as much about the ageing father as it is about the daughter and no one could have portrayed it better than Olivia Colman. Anne has to remain stoic everyday and fight a battle that she knows will eventually end in an irreparable loss. Anne is aware that her late sister Lucy was her father's favourite. Anthony might have forgotten that one of his daughters is dead, but he still remembers and fondly recalls the times spent with Lucy.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman in a still from <em>The Father</em>.</p></div>

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman in a still from The Father.

He has been dismissive of Anne, but that doesn't prevent the latter from tending to her ailing father. Anne has hidden her tears and put her life on hold for Anthony, but the time has come to make a difficult decision. Colman deftly navigates Anne's various emotions, in turn teaching us about grief, loss and the necessity of moving on. Never for once does the movie judge Anne for trying to move on or wishing that her father were dead instead of suffer like this.

When it comes to addressing dementia, Floren Zeller has chosen to stay away from the usual drama associated with illnesses, and that's what elevates The Father. The movie shows us that just like every other illness, dementia too can be awful for the patient as well as the caregiver. There's no need to sugarcoat or speak monologues about the pain. Sometimes, the raw feelings can only be expressed through silence.

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