Anthony Hopkins in The Father
Anthony Hopkins in The FatherTwitter

The movie begins with a father’s confused state of mind, a dementia patient, slipping through his memories and expectations. A part of him still rejects to be vulnerable, in a complete denial state while another part fears to lose the only loved ones. A third part is his own defence mechanism that tries to alter the situation in its own way as coping strategy.

‘The father’, Anthony (screen name) , lost himself a long ago. He no longer knows who he is or who he was. He misses his dead daughter and fears the living one may leave him. The daughter wants to go to Paris to live with his boyfriend. He tries to stop her. His finest refined reason for her was, “You in Paris. You are not going to do that, are you? I mean wake up. They don’t even speak English.” When she leaves the father in a nursing home, he made up a complete opposite situation. He imagines she no longer wanted to leave him and lived with him instead in London.

Those made-up-in-the-head situations are actually the possibilities he thought of for himself. That his daughter might not leave him in London or could move her father in to live with her, her boyfriend could also come to live with them in London and such possibilities.

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‘The Father’ is a movie that drives you in the deepest of the worst melancholy. You will find no respite anytime soon even after finishing it.

The first man, the first hero of a daughter’s life is her father. Then one day the man gets old, becomes ill, forgets things, becomes irritated and nagging, but still remains the father but an estranged one. We call it old age complications, dementia or Alzheimer and many other names. But the writer and director of the film Florian Zeller, actor Anthony Hopkins as the father and Olivia Colman as daughter presented an experience before us of what trauma the persons experiencing the situation first hand go through in such circumstances.

We call it old age complications, dementia or Alzheimer and many other names. But the writer and director of the film Florian Zeller, actor Anthony Hopkins as the father and Olivia Colman as daughter presented an experience before us of what trauma the persons experiencing the situation first hand go through in such circumstances

A strong person throughout his life, he does not recognise his loved ones, suspects them of stealing his valuables and makes a world in his head where he is secured with his kith and kin. The people around the person are left baffled, confused and helpless thinking of what is going on with him. What could be more devastating than our minds playing tricks with us leaving us thinking we no longer belong to the known world we once built with so much affection?

The film ‘The Father’ forces us to rethink our obsession with possessions, murky concepts of mental health, tricks of human minds, uncertainty of human lives and old age. It redefines what we call empathy.

“So, if I understand correctly, you are leaving me. Is that it? You are abandoning me?”
The Father

The film is adapted from the writer’s critically acclaimed French drama of the same name. Through his film adaptation Florian Zeller has been successful to drive into the audiences’ emotions and thoughts and make them see the protagonist’s state of mind with reeling sympathy. Anthony Hopkins with his magic of acting and with the dialogue, “So, if I understand correctly, you are leaving me. Is that it? You are abandoning me?” breaks the viewer’s hearts into myriad pieces. Hopkins, with no doubt why is he the best actor in Oscar, made the film as wrenching as it is through his outstanding and finest ever performance. Olivia Colman also had her best performance in ‘The Father’. The film is so heart-breaking that it will not be shocking if anyone asks to put a disclaimer on it: “Viewer’s discretion is advised who have ailing parent with dementia.”

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The film made us feel the pain suffered by the characters. Did we generally ever think that our mind can inflict such insufferable pains on us or on our loved ones? Did we ever think an illness like dementia can be so overpowering? The bewilderment of Anthony at the final scene will bend, break and shatter your heart- “I feel as if I’m losing all of my leaves. The branches, and the wind, and the rain. I don’t know what’s happening anymore!” Then the numbness spreads all over and continues…

*Farjana Liakat works at Prothom Alo. She can be reached at [email protected]

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