It is not hard to do big things in acting, to scream and yell, but it is harder to do nothing, to sit and think, is a lot. Pioneer actors like Anthony Hopkins have already mastered that art. Today, we just wait for a new magic trick from the grand sorcerer. In The Father, Sir Hopkins leaves you spellbound.
The Father is based on a 2012 theatrical play Le Père, written by the director of the film, Florian Zeller himself. The film also stars a talent powerhouse, Olivia Colman, who plays the role of Anthony’s daughter. Together, they hook your attention and take you on an emotional ride revolving around aging and memory loss.
‘The Father’ Summary
The film begins with Anne (Olivia Colman), who visits her father, Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), in his flat. They argue over the fact that Anthony had scared off another caretaker. The conversation establishes that the old man is suffering from dementia and memory loss but is too cynical to accept his flaws. Anne requests his father to be humble with the caretakers as she won’t be there with him for long. Anne is leaving for Paris to live with her new boyfriend. Anthony confuses the new man in her life with Paul, the ex-husband of Anne.
Anne leaves, but the thought of Paul and Anne stays inside Anthony’s mind. He creates a scenario where he sees a man who calls himself Paul (Mark Gatiss). Anthony believes this new strange man is invading his flat, but according to Paul, Anthony is the guest. He stays there with Paul and his daughter Anne. When Anne comes back from the market with chicken for dinner, she appears to be a different woman (Olivia Williams).
The narrative continues exploring Anthony’s confusion with names, faces, and incidents. He keeps forgetting the present, but the past stays firm, which he is living over and over.
‘The Father’ Explanation – A Life Behind Closed Doors
Apparently, Anthony has been living in a mental institution from the start. All incidents that happened in the film are actually bytes of his past that he keeps on living. In Dementia, one loses the ability to create new memories and become a victim of the past. Basically, that’s all they have. In The Father, we experience things through a prism of Anthony’s confusion. The way he mixes reality with his own memories.
In his memories, Anthony keeps moving around new flats, but he can’t differentiate. For him, it all looks the same. While staying at Paul’s house, Anthony tries to locate a painting drawn by his late daughter Lucy. Though Anne and Paul had already told him that he stays with them now, he often gets confused with locations. In his mind, he is still living in his own flat, which he doesn’t want to leave. The director, Florian Zeller, has also tricked the audience into similar locations. But if you will look closely, each place is different.
Anthony’s narrative is divided into impacting events of his life that spanned over 5 years or more. It starts with Anne telling Anthony that she is leaving for Paris to live with a new boyfriend. When Anthony confuses him with Anne’s ex-husband Paul. His narrative goes back to the time when Anthony was living with Anne and Paul.
Paul couldn’t handle the stress of staying with a mentally ill man, which creates friction between the couple. Unable to accept Paul’s behavior with her father, they get divorced.
Anthony moves back to the time when Anne introduced him to the nurse, Catherine (Olivia Williams). The woman gets confused with Anne in her narrative. It is one of the most striking moments in Anothony’s life because Anne leaves Anthony in a nursing home before leaving for Paris.
The fear of losing keeps fracturing Anthony’s sanity. Fear of losing a watch, fear of losing his flat, and most importantly, fear of losing Anne. He hasn’t accepted the loss of his daughter Lucy who died in a car accident.
“Losing all my things, everyone’s just helping themselves. If this goes on much longer, I’ll be stark naked.”Anthony
In the last scene, in a nursing home, Catherine even narrates to Anthony that there have been several months since Anne’s departure. She has to remind Anthony every day, which explains that he hasn’t created the memory of this new information and thus, is stuck with the old one. He keeps playing it again and again and sometimes gets confused with the new faces of his nurse Catherine and Bill (Mark Gatiss).
The director, Florian Zeller, wanted the audience to feel as if they are “groping their way through a labyrinth, and thus he plotted a complex narrative mixing reality with memories.
‘The Father’ Ending Explained – A Circle of Life
Unable to accept Anne’s departure and his inability to understand the world anymore, Anthony breaks down and starts crying like a child. In a very emotional scene, brilliantly played out by Anthony Hopkins, he asks for his mother. It is the most distinctive element of the entire film. As kids, when we fail to understand the world, we look up to our mothers. Ironically, an old man who fails to understand the world can’t look up to his children. They’ve left. It is the most painful circumstance for a father to call out for his mother and not his children in dire need of love and support.
The film doesn’t comment on whether Anne made the right choice or the wrong one. According to her ex-husband, she had been sacrificing a lot for her father. Staying with a cynical old man is the hardest part of living. The narrative doesn’t even comment that a father shouldn’t spend his days in a nursing home. The film is a beautiful portrayal of ‘how things become. An act of becoming. Like some kids are born in an orphanage, some parents become orphans too.’
The Father is a depiction of life behind a closed door. Physically and mentally, Anthony lives in a box. Anthony is never seen outside a sealed chamber. Even when he visits a doctor, he is seen sitting behind a closed window. Mentally, his mind is trapped too. It operates in a bit of a box with no room to create new memories. Yes, the old ones are fading, but due to his dementia, new ones will never peep in. That’s the curse of old age, and we all have to go through it, maybe.
There isn’t any word in a dictionary to define the talents of Anthony Hopkins. If there may be any, I don’t want to use it to degrade his genius. Without doing much, the man has the power to hold you through his emotions. After a moment, Anthony Hopkins is felt rather than seen. I believe it is the most beautiful compliment I can bestow upon a magical performer. Olivia Colman is incredible. Without her, there would have been a void, only to be filled by her charm.
I don’t know whether you like slow films or not. But watching a movie like The Father is something essential. Films have the power to teach you without letting you go through hardships. The power of a story makes you humble, compassionate, and more close to ‘living.’ If you ever felt the need to become human, do watch The Father. It is due to these narratives that we are still living and making films.
The Father is a 2020 film directed by Florian Zeller. It is available for Video-on-Demand.
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