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FILM OF THE WEEK Heavy hearts and minds tale

MARIA DUARTE recommends an intensely poignant account of the impact on a sufferer and his carers as Alzheimer's takes its grip

The Father (12A)
Directed by Florian Zeller

 

IF YOU have ever wondered what suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia would truly be like, look no further than this drama of labyrinthine confusion, which provides a unique and intimate insight into the illness and its devastating effects on sufferers and their loved ones.

Florian Zeller’s impressive directorial debut feature — for which he won an Oscar — is based on his stage play and adapted for the big screen with Christopher Hampton.

With exquisite aesthetics and set in an apartment to die for, it stars Anthony Hopkins in an Academy Award-winning performance as 81-year-old Anthony, who lives alone in his London home and manages to get rid of every nurse his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) has hired to take care of him.

About to move to Paris, she feels she can’t leave him to fend for himself — a poignant examination of the role reversals of parent and child in latter life — while he fears he is slowly going mad.

It is an extraordinary depiction of a mind starting to crumble, reinforced by a non-linear timeline: memories fusing and the same characters being played by different people who suddenly appear and disappear.

There is no sense of the passing of time, just subtle changes in the flat’s decor and furnishings, which proves maddening for both Anthony and the viewer as we all try to keep a grip on reality.

Hopkins delivers the performance of his career, pivoting from charming and lucid to angry and confused to a broken shell of a man while Colman, at the top of her game, is heart-breaking as a daughter who is struggling to care for her father and not lose him or herself in the process.

They are joined by an equally formidable supporting cast. Artfully helmed by Zeller, this is a complex and haunting drama and one of the most realistic portrayals of dementia.

Maria Duarte
In cinemas

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