French director Florian Zeller's gripping new movie (based on his 2012 play of the same name) is about a man suffering through the fog of dementia. It's a familiar subject matter, but Zeller's approach is far from routine. And the result is an extraordinary film - an emotional journey into the dark spaces of memory loss and what havoc it does to people and to the people who love them.
Anthony Hopkins plays the central character (he's also named Anthony in the film). Anthony has led a successful life, working as an engineer and raising a family. He is in his eighties, lives alone in a rather nice flat in London and is visited frequently by his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman).
He is also losing his mind. And he's in denial about it, still lucid enough to know something's very wrong but not willing to let others help. And as the film opens, Anne's got some complicating news for her father: she's met someone and is moving to Paris. The move will hasten the need for a suitable carer to be found. This is not as easy as it seems, as a number of helpers have quit following prickliness from Anthony.
It's soon after this conversation that the film takes its dramatic turn. Things are muddled. People come and go from the flat. Anne's move to Paris suddenly seems off the cards. Items in the flat change. What we see is the world through Anthony's perspective as the disease overwhelms his life.
The Father is an astonishing piece of filmmaking. Although adapted from a play, the film doesn't suffer the verbal barrages that can occur with transfers from stage to screen. The dialogue and construction of the scenes instead convey vividly the confusion Anthony experiences and the helplessness Anne feels towards him.
Anthony Hopkins gives, even by his standards, an exceptional performance. His character is quick to anger and often extremely unpleasant but you know all along it's his inability to deal with his mind that's leading him. The rest of the cast is equally adept, led by Oliva Colman, herself a victim, trying to do what's right by her father when there is no obvious right. Rufus Sewell, Imogen Poots and Olivia Williams also appear in Anthony's world and take part in memorable scenes.
The Father explores the many cruelties dementia inflicts. But it doesn't dwell in anguish - everyone still tries to cope, tries to do what's best. The crippling nature of Anthony's disease is laid out for us to try and fathom. Nowhere is this more evident than in the film's touching final scene, a scene which will stay with you for a while.