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A Patriarch in Peril: A TIFF Review of ‘The Father’

September 15, 2020Ben MK

With over 50 million people afflicted worldwide and one new case diagnosed every three seconds, dementia will touch most people in some way, shape or form during their lifetime. It's certainly not something you would wish upon anyone you love; but in terms of putting audiences in the shoes of someone suffering from this terrible disease, few films succeed as well as Florian Zeller's The Father.

In this adaptation of Zeller's own 2012 stage play of the same name, Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Anthony, an elderly Londoner desperate to hold onto both his independence and his sanity, even though the world he knows is slowly slipping through his fingers. Despite the constant efforts of his concerned eldest daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman), who tirelessly tries to convince him to accept the help of an in-home caregiver, Anthony remains stubbornly resistant to the idea and vigorously adamant that he's perfectly capable of maintaining his current lifestyle. However, when he starts to have trouble remembering whose flat he's living in, what time of day it is, and even who he's talking to face-to-face, it becomes more and more than apparent that that certainly isn't the case.

Strengthened by a career-best performance from Hopkins, the result is a poignant and multifaceted look at what it's like to live with dementia. After all, a disease doesn't just affect the person suffering from it, it also takes a toll on the people around them. And in that regard, The Father certainly knows best.

The Father screens under the Special Presentations programme at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 37 min.

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