Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman give us a new take on a parent with dementia.
Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is a retired engineer that is suffering from dementia. His daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman) hires a nurse named Laura (Imogen Poots) to take care of him. Anthony has previously been angry at any attempts to get a nurse to take care of him. Anne’s new husband, Paul (Rufus Sewell), does not like how taking care of Anthony has started to eat away at Anne’s life. As Anthony’s mental health deteriorates, he faces a world that no longer makes sense. Mark Gatiss and Olivia Williams also star.
When I saw the description of this movie, I assumed that this film would be told from the daughter’s perspective as a film about dealing with the mental degradation of a parent, something that is often very fertile ground for storytelling. Imagine my surprise to find out that the story is actually told from the perspective of the father, Anthony. As such, the movie makes little to no linear sense, due to Anthony being unable to remember the events that have happened recently or even farther in the past. It can be very confusing to the viewer, but that’s pretty much the point. You’re watching the world through the eyes of someone to whom everything has stopped working right.
This film would not work if it was just anyone performing Anthony, because accurately portraying someone going through Alzheimers or other, similar, mental degradation is tough. It’s so easy to devolve into stupor or even parody without meaning to. Here, Anthony is sympathetic even when he’s being mean or aggressive, because we know his aggression and condescension all come from the fact that he’s lost and scared. It’s all the more tragic because we know that he won’t get better. He won’t even be able to stay the same. Anthony Hopkins plays the character perfectly throughout, showing believable confusion and frustration when confronted with the fact that his world may change at any moment. Olivia Colman, likewise, has to play someone who is dealing with a parent who is no longer able to behave rationally. She loves Anthony and she wants to keep him around, but she also is burdened with the knowledge that he’s not the father who she knew.
Overall, it’s an excellent film with a great cast. It’s worth watching, even though it’s rough to watch (then again, so were many of the nominees this year).
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