The Father

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It’s one of my favorite times of year…award season! The Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards presented their top picks in cinema. The Academy Awards air at the end of the month, on April 25.

Although it’s been anything but a typical year for the movie industry, I’m following my usual practice of watching the Best Nominated Films ahead of the Oscars. What a sweet joy to view The Father at Bookhouse Cinema recently, rather than at home on a streaming service. I loved the experience, which felt amazing after viewing only two films at a theater last year.

The darkened theater experience, combined with the incredibly moving story of this film, deeply impacted me. I’m still thinking about this movie.

This is the Best Picture Nominated film, The Father.

The Father title meme

The Father Cast

This drama stars Anthony Hopkins, Oliva Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell. The Father, which has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes, is directed by Florian Zeller and carries a PG-13 rating for occasional strong language and adult themes.

The Father earned six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor for Hopkins, Best Supporting Actress for Colman, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Production Design.

The Father argument
Father and daughter trying to understand each other, in The Father.

The Father Storyline

Anthony (Hopkins), an 84 year old man, lives alone in his beautiful London flat. His daughter Anne (Colman) works and enjoys her independent life while stopping by frequently to check on her father.

However, the frequency of her visits increases as first one and then another of her father’s caretakers quit. Anthony doesn’t believe he needs assistance. Unconvinced, Anne notes that her father sometimes appears confused or forgetful. Daily, it seems, Anthony misplaces his watch, then accuses one of the caretakers of stealing it.

Anthony oscillates between confusion one moment and belligerence about giving up his flat the next, leading Anne to make the difficult decision to move him into her place.

The Father Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins as the father.
The Father Olivia Colman
Olivia Colman as the daughter.

A Confusing World

Although Anne spends more time with her father, due to his close proximity, Anthony’s perception of reality continues to deteriorate.

He finds it difficult to sort out timelines. To him, Anne appears younger some days and older others. Strangers appear in the flat and just as quickly disappear. One minute Anne tells him she’s moving to Paris, to live with her new boyfriend  Paul (Sewell). The next, Anne’s husband James (Gatiss) appears in the front parlor, even though she claims they divorced five years ago.

Realizing she needs help, Anne hires Laura (Poots), to stay with her father during the day. When Anthony meets her, he’s struck by her resemblance to his younger daughter, Lucy (also Poots). It causes him to wonder why Lucy never visits him. He charms Laura, dancing and engaging in witty conversation, leaving Anne smiling and yet confused herself about his condition.

A doctor confirms Anne’s fears. Her father’s episodes of confusion signal the onset of dementia.

For Anthony, who insists his memory is fine, the world becomes increasingly small, confined within the walls of a flat that might be his…or might be Anne’s. And the people living with him…is this his daughter Anne? And his son-in-law? Or is that man his daughter’s boyfriend? And where is his other daughter, Lucy? Doesn’t Laura look just like Lucy?

And where, oh where, is his watch??

The Father charming Laura
The father charming Laura.
The Father telling stories
When you don’t remember details…make them up!

My Thoughts on The Father

This film had such a strong effect on me. Perhaps it’s because Greg’s mother died of Alzheimer’s and we lost her, bit by bit, long before her body wore out. Or perhaps it’s because Anthony Hopkins physically reminds me of Greg’s dad, who joined his dear wife almost six years ago. And then, my own father’s death anniversary popped up March 30…gone 11 years now. Or maybe it’s because I’m in my 60s now and cringe every time I suddenly forget a name.

The subject of dementia is a scary one for most people. And you’d expect a film about that devastating illness to be dark and depressing. It is a heavy subject, undoubtedly. However, I’m so grateful for this outstanding film.

The Father confusion
The world becomes so confusing, in The Father.

My Favorite Best Picture Film So Far

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman both deserve their Oscar nominations. I felt completely undone by both performances, so much so that I sat quietly in my car after the movie and just felt all the emotions. And the emotions were many.

I laughed at times, delighted by Anthony’s charm, and I teared up, sympathetic to Anne’s pain and fear as her “Little Daddy” slipped away from her. Oft times, my body responded physically to what unfolded on the screen, feeling gut punched and breathless.

The Father is beautiful, edgy, difficult to watch and impossible to look away from.  Plus, it is unbelievably clever. This is the most intriguing film I’ve ever seen, about dementia. Anthony’s perspective on his confusing and ever shifting world instills in the viewer empathy and compassion for those in the grips of this horrible disease. The Father not only changes the way I perceive those with memory issues, it changes the way I respond to them.

See The Father. If you’ve ever known someone with dementia, or currently care for a loved one with this disorder, spend 97 minutes with this film. Allow it to upend your views and open your mind and soften your heart. And cry. Weep for those whose realities no longer make sense. Then offer them patience and unconditional love.

The Father daughter and little daddy
The father and his daughter.

Watch The Father at select theaters, or rent on Amazon Prime HERE.

Did you enjoy this review? Check out my review of the Bridgerton series!


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Journey 71: The Theory of Everything

theory of everything poster

I don’t normally do two posts in a row about movies, however, what a joy this week, as my journey included two movies that deeply impacted me. Tonight I watched movie number three among the eight nominated for Best Picture…The Theory of Everything.

This biographical drama/romance stars Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis, Charlie Cox and Maxine Peake. The movie was directed by James Marsh and is based on the book, “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” by Jane Hawking. It is rated PG-13, for thematic elements and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes. The Theory of Everything was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Musical Score, Best Actress for Jones and Best Actor for Redmayne. Eddie Redmayne won the film’s only Oscar.

The Theory of Everything is the story of one of the most amazing and well known physicists of our time, Stephen Hawking (Redmayne). A student at Cambridge, Stephen is considered brilliant, but he is unsure what to pursue as his thesis. He meets Jane Wilde (Jones), an art student at Cambridge, and the two begin a relationship, shyly at first, and then with more passion as they get to know each other. And then, just as it seems life is beginning for the young couple, Stephen is told he only has two years to live. Doctors diagnose his muscle weakness as a motor neuron disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the American baseball player who died from the illness.

Stephen is shattered and withdraws. However, Jane refuses to walk away. She tells Stephen that she loves him, and no matter how short their remaining time, she wants to spend it together. Embracing life again, Stephen decides what his course of study will be…time…the thing which is so precious to him now. The couple marries, and in spite of his prognosis, Stephen does not die. His body continues to decline as his muscles weaken, but his mind is as sharp and questioning as ever, his spirit undeterred. As children are born into the family, two sons and a daughter, Hawking breaks new ground in science as he searches for a theory that would explain everything…about time, about the universe, about the birth of the universe and time.

As those two years turn into many years, Stephen must rely on a wheelchair for mobility and his wife for his daily care. He begins receiving recognition for his work and awards, while Jane just longs for a normal life, or at the least, help in managing her husband’s growing health needs and a lively family. Needing to get out of the house occasionally, Jane joins the church choir, and meets Jonathan (Cox), a recent widower. He offers to help the family by taking on some of the care for Stephen, spending much time with the Hawkings. Eventually, he and Jane recognize that they have feelings for each other, but agree to back off of the relationship when Stephen ends up in a coma in the hospital.

theory of everything actors with stephen hawkings

The actors with Stephen Hawking

The doctor urges Jane to let Stephen go, but she fights for him, as she has all her adult life. To save his life, a tracheotomy is performed, making it easier for Stephen to breathe and silencing his voice for the rest of his life. A new live in nurse, Elaine (Peake) arrives to help care for Stephen, encouraging him to speak using an alphabet board at first, and then a computer program that translates typing into spoken words. The distinct mechanical voice with an American accent, all that was available at the time, has become one of Hawking’s trademarks and he continues using the same voice today.

Stephen begins his book, A Brief History of Time, as his relationship with Jane draws to an end. He releases her to be with Jonathan, while he moves out and later marries his nurse, Elaine. The movie concludes with Stephen meeting the Queen of England and for his escort for that honor, he asks Jane to join him. As they watch their children in the royal gardens, Stephen remarks to Jane, “Look what we made.” She says the day has been extraordinary, and then amends her words to say to Stephen that all their shared life has been extraordinary. When they were dating, Stephen said to Jane, “What if I reverse time to see what happened at the beginning of time?”. Jane answers, “Wind back the clock?” The movie closes with the clock rewinding….from the shared moment in the garden, back through their marriage, the births of their children, their wedding day, their courtship, the evening they attended the dance, the first time they saw each other across a crowded room. Back….to their beginning in time.

I was so impacted by this movie that I find it difficult to share the depth of feeling associated with it. It wasn’t just one element of the film, which is the story of two very real people, it was many things. I knew Stephen was going to be affected by an incurable disease and yet I winced as I saw the onset of symptoms. I watched most of this film with a heaviness in my chest and a feeling of constriction in my throat. I can’t quite explain that yet. My eyes teared up many, many times. In spite of the seeming unfairness of life, Stephen never lost himself even as his body became almost useless. He smiled so often. Even when he couldn’t speak, his eyes, his smile, his wriggling eyebrows conveyed a joy that couldn’t be dimmed by disease.

Most of all, I hurt for the relationship that sustained them both through challenging years and then came to an end, with tears from both of them. It wasn’t that they didn’t love each other any longer, rather, they released each other to live different lives. Perhaps, that was the greatest act of love they could offer to each other. According to information I found online, after the movie, Stephen is divorced from the nurse he married in 1995 and has a close relationship with Jane, his children and grandchildren.

Near the end of the movie, Hawking shares these words with an audience: “There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.” I am tonight, filled with hope.

theory of everything the hawkings

The Hawking Family