Thursday, January 30, 2020

Sundance with Abe: The Father

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.

The Father
Directed by Florian Zeller

One of the most tragic aspects of memory loss is that the person experiencing is often not aware that they are starting to forget things. It’s not uncommon to find those with dementia insisting that they know what is going on and that they don’t need any help while simultaneously confusing events, people, and location. Those who care for them are doubly burdened by having to watch their loved ones lose part of themselves and get yelled at in the process for trying to do what they know to be best for them. This subject matter is, unfortunately, all too familiar to many people.

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is visited by his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman), who comes to tell him that she is moving to Paris with her boyfriend and needs to arrange for a new caregiver after he fired the last one. When next he sees her, Anne (Olivia Williams) looks different, and has a husband (Mark Gattis), with no plans of any kind to move to Paris. As he meets a new caregiver (Imogen Poots) who reminds him of his other daughter and another man claiming to be Anne’s husband (Rufus Sewell), Anthony struggles to comprehend what’s real and if his mind is indeed playing tricks on him.

This film, originally staged as a play by director Florian Zeller and adapted with Christopher Hampton, makes extraordinary use of its sets to enhance the disorienting nature of Anthony’s experience. Each new room he walks into may introduce new faces and erase others, and, though he believes the entire time that he is living in his own flat, that isn’t the case every time he begins a new conversation. Casting multiple actors in the same parts helps the audience connect with Anthony’s confusion and understand his insistence that what he saw moments earlier couldn’t be entirely within his own mind.

Hopkins, an Oscar nominee for “The Two Popes,” delivers an energetic turn as a man unwilling to have his life and his independence taken away from him, alternating between cruel anger and genuine dismay at the changing reality around him. Colman, not playing a queen, is sympathetic and representative of audience members with far too much personal experience with this phenomenon, and Poots, in a small role, embodies a sweetness that comes with approaching a situation like this from the outside. This film will surely be an emotional experience for those who find it relatable, and those who haven’t yet been through it should also find it compelling.


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