During a recent trip out of state, I was shocked to learn theaters in some cities are open – wide open. There are safety measures in place. Masks are mandatory in the lobby and while purchasing tickets. The theater only sells a limited number of tickets, and you must choose you seats at the time of purchase, but….there I sat in a real movie theater, in front of the big screen, not another soul in my row. It was a little bit exhilarating after so many months of Netflix and Amazon Prime, and as the lights dimmed and the screen lit up, I was almost giddy.
I chose the movie on a whim. While Tom & Jerry was tempting, I purchased tickets to see Anthony Hopkin’s latest role: The Father.
The Father, a British-French production from writer-director Florian Zeller, is the story of an 80-year-old man whose daughter, Anne (played by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Olivia Coleman) feels her father needs caregiving. Anthony (Hopkin’s character) couldn’t disagree more. He feels entirely capable of caring for himself and resents his daughter’s desire to complicate his perfectly pleasant life. The catch, of course, is that his life isn’t always perfectly pleasant. He has memory gaps, confusion and loss of time. He struggles to maintain a sense of semblance on the outside as he grows more confused on the inside.
Anne, who will no longer be available to check in on her father daily, struggles to cope with what she feels her father needs and what her father wants. She struggles with her roles as daughter and caregiver, which feel, at times, to be in stark opposition of each other. The film does a wonderful job of weaving Anne’s and Anthony’s perspectives together, creating a sense of both urgency as well as confusion for the viewer, essentially allowing us to experience the story from both perspectives. We feel the confusion, anxiety and vulnerability of Anthony’s world as well as the frustration, love and concern of his daughter’s.
Hopkins is wonderful, authentic and heartbreaking in this role. He careens from charming to defiant in a matter of minutes, taking viewers on the rollercoaster ride right along with him. Coleman is relatable as a daughter who loves her father deeply but is torn between her role as caregiver and the demands of her professional and personal lives.
The film touches on many aspects of the caregiver/parent relationship. There is grief, sadness, joy, reflection and frustration. The Father does a superb job of letting viewers into the world of someone who can no longer trust his memory or day-to-day functioning, which is difficult at times to watch. Hopkins is vulnerable in his sense of loss of control and in the anger in which it sometimes comes out.
The Father also addresses the issue of elder abuse, a biproduct of the frustration felt by those on the periphery of this father-daughter relationship and of the difficult decisions one must make about how a parent should be cared for when he can no longer care for himself.
The Father isn’t necessarily a feel-good movie, but neither is it a feel-bad movie. It is, ultimately, just like life: a combination of both.
For those of you who cannot (or do not) want to visit a theater, The Father is slated to stream on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes March 26.
5 New Films to Look Forward to in 2021 include:
- Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (with an all-star cast)
- The Mauritanian starring Jodi Foster and in theaters now and available on Amazon Prime.
- BIOS, a sci-fi starring Tom Hanks and slated for a summer premier.
- Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, which is due to be released in late 2021.
- The Dig, a British film set on the eve of World War II, starting Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan – now streaming on Netflix after a limited release in January, 2021.
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