A brutal, trippy portrait of what it must feel like to lose your grip on reality boasts an Oscar-worthy performance
Most years at Sundance, usually within the midnight movies strand, a horror film breaks out, terrifying all those able to endure it, kickstarting a buzz that continues through to release with poster quotes daring only the bravest of audiences to go see. In previous years there’s been Saw, Hereditary, Get Out, The Babadook and The Blair Witch Project but this year, the scariest film isn’t about a sadistic killer or an evil cult. It’s not even a scary movie in any traditional sense. It’s a film about the bone-chilling horror of living with dementia and it’ll haunt me for weeks.
Based on the acclaimed, award-winning play, The Father starts out as a deceptively simple drama hinged on a deceptively familiar dynamic. Anne (Olivia Colman) is losing patience with her 80-year-old father, Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), whose grip on reality is fading but who refuses to allow a carer to look after him. She’s moving to Paris and needs to ensure his safety while she is away so before she leaves she must find someone who will endure him. For Anthony, life has become a source of ever-disorienting confusion and in a masterful stroke, the writer-director Florian Zeller (who created the original stage production) tells the story from his eyes as characters and locations shift and we become as muddled as he.No sign (as far as I can see) of a UK release date for this yet but we will have to see it. It is yet another entry in the Ageing Curmudgeon Confronts Mortality stakes (Icons passim) and last time my brother John was up, PG entertained him and me with stories about visiting Hopkins' dad's baker's shop in the late 50s.
I also notice that Christopher Hampton (that's Sir Christopher James Hampton CBE FRSL to you, Prodnose) has got a screenwriting credit on it. As PG directed his Tales from Hollywood at the National back in the day, more anecdotes may be forthcoming.